Australia Fires a Bullet of Mercy on Partnership with China
Australia's alliances with the West explain the Australian government's recent decision against China, but Australia's geographical position and its proximity to China necessitate the existence of soft and non-hostile bilateral relations.
Sino-Australian relations are heating up after Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne recently announced the cancellation of two deals between the state of Victoria in Australia and China, under new foreign veto laws. The tension in the bilateral relationship is a reflection of the campaign waged by the West against China under the pretext of violating human rights, which may negatively affect political security in Asia-Pacific. Australia is a major economic partner of China. Therefore, this decision will have repercussions on the Australian economy and its political reputation. However, the Chinese administration did not deal maliciously and called on the Australian government to reconsider this decision. The Chinese reaction indicates that the Chinese administration is unwilling to aggravate the bilateral relationship and that China is not about to reduce its partnership with Australia.
The Australian Minister of Foreign Affairs has used its veto powers to annul the Belt and Road agreements that the state of Victoria has entered into with China; tearing up the Belt and Road Agreements with China is a bold and unusual decision by the Australian government that may affect the stability of Asia-Pacific. Australia's alliances with the West explain the Australian government's recent decision against China, but Australia's geographical position and its proximity to China necessitate the existence of soft and non-hostile bilateral relations. Some analysts point out that the recent Australian decision is a prelude to the foreign policy of President Biden's administration towards Asia-Pacific.
The Belt and Road Initiative, launched by Chinese President Xi Jinping in 2013, is the backbone of China's foreign policy. Therefore, partnership with China in this huge project is a benefit. As for the policy of hostility and abandonment of China, it will not be beneficial in the new era of international relations. The Chinese intercontinental initiative connects many economic blocs to China through infrastructure projects, ports, and others. The revival of the ancient Silk Road through the modern Belt and Road initiative will raise China's position in international politics and contribute to the increase in Chinese wealth, which may put the Chinese economy at the forefront, and therefore it is very likely that the Chinese economy may surpass the economy of the United States.
The Foreign Minister, Marise Payne, stated that cancelling these two deals, as well as cancelling two agreements with Iran and Syria, is a purely Australian decision, given that these agreements have become inconsistent with Australia's foreign policy or conflict with its foreign relations. Recently, the federal government has introduced new laws that allow it to review and revoke a range of international agreements concluded by Australian states, territories, councils, and universities. Australia, the strategic ally of the United States of America, will not favor Chinese interests over Western ones. The Australian decision may satisfy the desires of some countries that are afraid of the Belt and Road Initiative. The Australian decision will not hinder the progress of the Belt and Road Initiative, but it is a clear declaration of Australian intentions towards China.
This bilateral relationship is not pure. Rather, there are some pre-existing disagreements, for example, in 2020 Beijing hindered some Australian exports. If Beijing responds, Canberra will be severely affected, given that China is Australia's largest trading partner, and Australia exports much of its products to China. Australia may not bear the Chinese response compared to the trade war between the United States and China. The United States has the first global economy, while the Australian economy depends mainly on regional cooperation, specifically trade exchanges with China.
China has refused Australia's withdrawal from the Belt and Road Initiative and has asked the Australian authorities to reconsider the decision. For China, Australia is a key partner and strategic region for Chinese international trade. The Australian government previously signed the “Blue Dot Network” with the United States of America to help develop commercial infrastructure in the Indian and Pacific Oceans as a tool to counter the Belt and Road Initiative. Australia has a Western orientation despite its geographic location in the Asia-Pacific.
The Australian Foreign Ministry’s decision to cancel the agreement with China came in conjunction with the dissolution of a memorandum of understanding between the Education and Training Administration in Victoria and the Technical and Vocational Training Organization in the Iranian Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs that was signed on November 25, 2004, and the cancellation of a scientific cooperation protocol between the Ministry of Higher Education in Syria and the Ministry of Higher Education and Training in Victoria signed on March 31, 1999. An economist believes that the timing of the Australian decision against China is inappropriate due to the economic crisis and high unemployment in light of covid-19.
The state of Victoria believes that the Belt and Road Initiative will create opportunities for local businesses in the state and local jobs. Without consulting Canberra, Victoria was the only Australian state to formally sign the Framework for Action on the Belt and Road Initiative agreed with the National Development and Reform Commission of the People's Republic of China in 2018 and 2019. The Australian government has always insisted on the state of Victoria to terminate the agreement with China, “because of the harsh economic policy pursued by China recently against Australia, for example, imposing a tariff of 80% on Australian barley”. Australia has recently demanded an independent international investigation into the pandemic and often pursues a policy that is inconsistent with Chinese interests, such as referring to human rights in China.