Australia and China are getting ready for yet another diplomatic face-off. And this time, the Scott Morrison government in Canberra is looking to remove every remaining vestige of authoritarian China from the Australian system. It all started with the Morrison government’s decision to cancel Victoria state’s $107 billion Belt and Road agreement with China. The next targets in Morrison’s anti-China crusade are going to be Darwin port’s 99-year lease to China and Confucius Institutes.
After Australia’s federal government scrapped Victoria’s Belt and Road deal, China did something very predictable- issue threats. On Thursday, China said that Australia’s sudden move risked “serious harm” to bilateral ties and warned of retaliatory actions. But Canberra remains undeterred. In fact, Australia’s Foreign Minister Marise Payne has hinted that further projects with overseas powers could be derailed under the new veto laws brought last year which were also used to scrap the Victoria Belt and Road agreement.
After the Morrison government cancelled the Victoria Belt and Road agreement with China, demands are being made within Australia for similar action against the Darwin port lease.
Kevin Rudd, the former Prime Minister of Australia, for example, tweeted, “While Morrison is examining Chinese infrastructure investments, why not take another look at the strategic Port of Darwin? The Liberals signed a 99-year lease when Morrison was treasurer. Liberal trade minister Andrew Robb later took a job with the same Chinese company.”
While Morrison is examining Chinese infrastructure investments, why not take another look at the strategic Port of Darwin? The Liberals signed a 99-year lease when Morrison was treasurer. Liberal trade minister Andrew Robb later took a job with the same Chinese company. pic.twitter.com/IoeeRnvLBb
— Kevin Rudd (@MrKRudd) April 22, 2021
The Darwin Port lease to a Chinese company is an extremely strategic issue for Canberra. In 2015, the Northern Territory government had decided to lease the Darwin Port to a Chinese company for 99 years. This was a strategic blunder given that the Communist Party of China (CCP) now dubs it as a part of the controversial and expansionist Belt and Road Initiative.
The port is strategically located on the southern flank of the US operations in the Pacific in close vicinity to Southeast Asian nations like Indonesia. This has repercussions on the potential flashpoints between Beijing and Washington in the South China Sea. Darwin is Asia’s gateway to Australia, which makes it extremely important for Canberra to maintain strategic autonomy over this port.
Independent Senator Jacqui Lambie spoke to Sky News about the Darwin port lease. Lambie said, “I’m beyond why you would do that; I actually believe that should be torn up.”
The Senator added, “It is in our national interest to do something about that Port of Darwin, it is the top end of Australia, if we’re going to be attacked, let’s be honest here, that’s the first place it’s going to hit it.”
Meanwhile, Sky News also reported that two Chinese language centres located on Australian University campuses are under review. The report mentions Confucius Institutes at the Universities of Queensland and Adelaide. As per Sky News, the centres have sparked outrage over alleged links to the Chinese government, while critics claim that they could influence Chinese language and cultural education down under.
The concerns in Australia about the Confucius Institutes are in line with the apprehensions of the rest of the free world. They are being increasingly seen as a part of the Chinese Communist Party’s worldwide propaganda campaign.
Democratic countries around the world have been taking action against Confucius Institutes. Last year, Sweden shut down the last existing Confucius Institute in the Scandinavian nation. The US too harbour concerns about these Chinese State-run language and cultural institutes.
Morrison government’s decisive battle against China has thus only started with the Victoria Belt and Road deal cancellation. There is a lot more to follow and it seems that Australian PM Scott Morrison will emerge victorious in his fierce battle against the Communist nation.