Australia is probably the only free world nation, which opposes authoritarianism purely for the protection of democratic values. You will often find how countries like the US showcase themselves as the leaders of the free world. But in reality, it is Canberra, which has truly stood up to Chinese authoritarianism.
Three years ago, former Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull blacklisted China’s leading telecom operators- Huawei and ZTE, from its 5G network. Later, the US led a major battle against Huawei. Now, Scott Morrison is doing the same to Xi Jinping’s flagship Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) what Turnbull had done to Huawei. Morrison recently scrapped Victoria state’s BRI deal with China and now other nations are expected to follow suit.
After Australia had banned Huawei, the then Trump administration in the United States was able to make a major security issue out of the involvement of Chinese telecom giant in 5G networks. In fact, former US President Donald Trump pressurised European powers and other US allies to act against Chinese 5G technology.
Ultimately, Trump had cut off the supply of semiconductors, which is the most essential input in consumer electronic goods, to China. Chinese tech giants have now been choked by the lack of semiconductors supply. However, Trump’s battle against Huawei had actually started with Turnbull’s Huawei ban.
Now, DW has reported that Australia’s decision to cancel Chinese infrastructure projects is a “loss of face” for Chinese President Xi Jinping. It has further reported that Australia’s decision could prompt other countries to back away from “similar deals”. The reference to “similar deals” ought to be seen in the light of China’s BRI investments across the world.
Heribert Dieter, from the German Institute for International and Security Affairs (SWP), told DW that the Scott Morrison government’s decision could prompt delays or withdrawals by other countries involved in the Chinese President’s flagship BRI.
Dieter also explained how the BRI has already lost its charm in the context of the pandemic-related economic downturn in poor Asian and African countries, where Beijing has made extensive BRI investments. Giving the example of Pakistan, he added, “The pandemic is extremely inconvenient for China. Many countries are experiencing great economic troubles.”
Dieter also said, “China will either have to extend the terms of loans or generally put projects on the back burner for the time being.”
The German expert concluded, “It would be a severe blow to the Chinese narrative to find that not only Australia, which is comparatively small in terms of population, but also larger players are saying goodbye to the Belt and Road Initiative and thus to the prospect of closer cooperation with the People’s Republic of China.”
Scott Morrison has thus chosen the right time to push back against Xi Jinping’s world domination dreams. The Australian PM understood that China’s BRI partners are already under severe economic stress and feeling harried by Beijing’s predatory loans. They only needed an ignition point for setting off a chain reaction against the BRI. Morrison might just have given a number of Asian and African nations that ignition point.
Australia is therefore emerging as the biggest warrior against Chinese communism and authoritarianism. First, it started off a big battle against Huawei’s 5G technology and now Canberra is directly damaging Xi Jinping’s Belt and Road Initiative.