Photo taken on Nov. 18, 2020 shows panda toys during a "Tree of Friendship" planting ceremony in Canberra, Australia, Nov. 18, 2020. (Photo by Liu Changchang/Xinhua)
- The stark disregard for the spirit of contract has put Australia's credibility into question.
- It is hoped that Australia will take an objective and rational view of the BRI and cooperation with China.
BEIJING, April 22 (Xinhua) -- With the federal government of Australia tearing up Victoria State's Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) agreements with China, Australia has shown no respect for the spirit of contract or any sincerity toward improving bilateral ties.
On Wednesday, Australia's Foreign Minister Marise Payne announced her decision in a statement to scrap the memorandum of understanding on BRI cooperation and the framework agreement, which were signed in 2018 and 2019 respectively, between the government of Victoria and the Chinese side.
The statement, calling those deals "inconsistent with Australia's foreign policy or adverse to our foreign relations," was made under Australia's Foreign Arrangements Scheme that came into effect last December.
It is reportedly the first time that the Australian government has used its new power tool to cancel agreements between local governments and other countries.
Photo taken on Nov. 2, 2020 shows the Sydney Opera House in Sydney, Australia. (Xinhua/Bai Xuefei)
The stark disregard for the spirit of contract has put Australia's credibility into question. It seems risky now to strike deals with the country because of such unpredictable behavior.
Cooperation with Australia has become erratic. Blame the government's capricious behavior, something China knows all too well.
Since 2018, a dozen Chinese investment projects in infrastructure and agriculture have been turned down by Australia on so-called national security concerns.
Chinese dairy company Mengniu gave up its proposed acquisition of Lion Dairy and Drinks last August, after Treasurer Josh Frydenberg said that the Chinese company's investment was "contrary to the national interest." Months later, Australia blocked a Chinese construction company from buying out a domestic builder, citing national security concerns.
The BRI deals with Australia have also long been in the crosshairs due to a cold-war mentality and ideological bias present among some politicians. The cancellation of the two BRI agreements, in spite of all tangible benefits and without explicit reasons given, raises concerns over the Australia's selective and discriminatory approach.
The BRI was initiated by China in 2013 to promote trade and economic cooperation among economies along the ancient Silk Road, and to further open up markets in a mutually beneficial manner.
Aerial photo taken on March 18, 2020 shows the container dock of Shanghai's Yangshan Port, east China. (Xinhua/Ding Ting)
As of January this year, a total of 171 countries and international organizations including Australia have signed 205 cooperation agreements with China in the joint construction of the Belt and Road.
With the memorandum of understanding signed in 2018, Victoria was the first Australian state to sign a Belt and Road cooperation agreement with China.
With two-way trade between the state and China soaring to over 18.3 billion U.S. dollars annually at that time, Victoria's Premier Daniel Andrews told Xinhua in 2019 that the partnership with China is important to his government, and "very important to Victorian economic prosperity, jobs and investment."
"There is no conflict of fundamental interest between us, and no major historical irritants to be healed," said Minister Wang Xining of the Chinese Embassy in Australia in his address to the National Press Club on Wednesday, a few hours before Payne announced the cancellation.
It is hoped that Australia will take an objective and rational view of the BRI and cooperation with China. Australia must behave in a way that bolsters mutual trust between the two counties. The country's own credibility is at stake. ■