China slams Australia for nixing Belt and Road deals
China has lodged stern representations with Australia over its canceling of two cooperation deals between its state of Victoria and China under the Belt and Road Initiative.
The decision “seriously damaged relations and mutual trust,” Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said on Thursday. “China reserves the right to make a further reaction.”
“We urge the Australian side to abandon its cold war mentality and ideological bias” and “not to go further down the wrong path so as to avoid making China-Australia relations, which are already facing serious difficulties, even worse,” Wang said.
The Chinese embassy earlier also criticized the move as “provocative” and said it would further damage ties.
The two contracts with Victoria, where Melbourne is located, were vetoed under a law allowing the government to overrule agreements that violate the national interest, Foreign Minister Marise Payne announced on Wednesday.
Under the new process, states must consult with the foreign minister before signing agreements with other nations. It took effect in December.
Victoria Labor Premier Dan Andrews signed an MOU to promote the infrastructure development initiative in 2018 and a framework agreement in 2019.
They were part of China’s Belt and Road Initiative to expand trade by building ports, railways and other facilities across dozens of countries from the South Pacific through Asia to Europe.
Payne also announced cancellation of contracts signed by Victoria’s Education Department with the governments of Syria in 1999 and Iran in 2004.
The four deals are “inconsistent with Australia’s foreign policy or adverse to our foreign relations,” Payne said.
She told local radio the policy was “not aimed at any one country.”
Wang expressed doubt over that claim. “The Australian side reviewed more than 1,000 deals and only decided to cancel four, and two of them were agreements with China, so Australia’s claim that the decision doesn’t target any particular country does not hold water,” he said.