China hits out at ‘provocative’ Australian scrapping of Belt and Road Initiative

China hits out at ‘provocative’ Australian scrapping of Belt and Road Initiative. Foreign Minister Marise Payne said Wednesday the federal government would override the Victorian state government’s decision to sign up to the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), a vast network of investments that critics say is cover for Beijing creating geopolitical and financial leverage, learned citing wionews.

China hits out at 'provocative' Australian scrapping of Belt and Road Initiative

China late Wednesday called an Australian federal government decision to scrap a Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) deal between Beijing and Victoria state “unreasonable and provocative” as relations tank between the two countries.

“The BRI cooperation between China and the Victoria state is conducive to deepening economic and trade relations between the two sides,” a statement by the Chinese Embassy in Australia said. “This is another unreasonable and provocative move taken by the Australian side against China.

Australia said a decision to cancel two deals between Victoria state and China on the Belt and Road Initiative was about ensuring consistency in foreign relations and was not aimed at any country.

Canberra last year introduced new laws widely seen as targeting China that allow it to scrap any agreements between state authorities and foreign countries deemed to threaten the national interest.

Foreign Minister Marise Payne said Wednesday the federal government would override the Victorian state government’s decision to sign up to the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), a vast network of investments that critics say is cover for Beijing creating geopolitical and financial leverage.

Payne said on radio on Thursday she had received a thousand notifications from the states about deals they had with multiple foreign governments, under a new process that gives her veto over such arrangements.

“This scheme is very focussed on Australia’s national interest. Its about ensuring consistency of our foreign relations across Australia and it’s most certainly not aimed at any one country,” she told ABC radio’s AM programme.

Beijing had been notified of the decision before it was made public on Wednesday evening.

She added Australia was committed to engaging with China, and was “asking all goverments around the world to respect our government’s decision-making authority”.

The announcement comes at a time of deteriorating relations between Beijing and Canberra, with the two governments at loggerheads over trade and competing for influence in the Pacific.

The BRI is the flagship of President Xi Jinping’s geostrategic vision for the Asia-Pacific region, and damage to its progress is likely to further rupture relations between the two countries.

Australia’s conservative coalition government had declined to agree to a country-level MOU with China on the Belt and Road Initiative. But Victoria Labor Premier Dan Andrews signed an agreement to promote the infrastructure development initiative in 2018 and 2019,saying it would bring Chinese investment to his state.

Under Australia’s constitution, the federal government is responsible for foreign affairs and defence. States typically deliver services such as health and education but in reality there is frequent overlap.

Diplomatic relations between Australia and China have worsened since Canberra called for an international inquiry into the origins of the coronavirus, prompting trade reprisals from Beijing.

On Wednesday, a senior Chinese embassy official again criticised Australia’s move to effectively ban Chinese telecommunications company Huawei from its 5G network in 2018, the first country to do so, saying Canberra had “even persuaded others to follow suit”.

Payne is visiting New Zealand, where she will meet her counterpart Nanaia Mahuta. Mahuta on Monday said New Zealand did not support the Five Eyes security alliance – which also includes Australia, Britain, Canada and the United States – speaking out on human rights issues.

The comments were widely interpreted as referring to Five Eyes joint statements criticising China.

“Australia will continue to emphasise the vital nature of the Five Eyes in security and intelligence,” Payne said on Thursday.

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