The good times for China are coming to a crashing close in Australia. Prime Minister Scott Morrison is dealing one blow after the other to Chinese interests in Australia. Earlier this month, the Scot Morrison government had officially initiated a review of the Northern Territory’s 99-year-lease of the Port of Darwin to the Chinese-owned company Landbridge. The Chinese company, which is known to have close ties to the CCP had back then said that it would willingly participate and cooperate with the review as required. Now, however, Landbridge has radically changed its position.
In fact, Landbridge is now going ballistic against Australia for daring to interfere in the 99-year lease which the Chinese company has over the strategic Darwin Port. But there is something very palpable that is causing the Chinese multinational group to hurt so inconsolably. According to Landbridge Infrastructure Holdings CEO Vincent Lai, recent political comments made by Australian government officials have hurt its dealings with business partners.
Landbridge admitted that the heightened scrutiny of the 99-year Darwin Port lease had “tarnished its international standing and reputation” and was also leading to the company’s global partners and investors growing more sceptical of doing business with it. Essentially the Scot Morrison government has brought a Chinese multinational company with links to the CCP on the verge of a collapse. Its partners are unwilling to do business with it, and the company is finding it increasingly difficult to find investors for its operations.
The Landbridge executive also remarked, “We have many trade partners and now, when we hold discussions with them, we field repeated questions on the status and the stability of our operations. So, yes, it affects our business.” Simultaneously, a statement by Shandong Landbridge Group said that the group will consider legal advice or other “appropriate ways to protect its legal rights and interests”.
Almost parallelly, in an opinion piece for the Australian Financial Review, Landbridge Group Australia managing director Mike Hughes cried about how he had never seen such ‘mistreatment’ of an international company that had ticked all of the required regulatory boxes. The article by him read, “Having spent most of my career working for multinationals investing in different parts of the world, most of it for an American company in south-east Asia, I have not seen a company as badly treated as Landbridge Group in Australia.”
The unprecedented meltdown on the part of Landbridge Group speaks volumes about how Australia has grabbed them by the throat and is about to choke them out very soon. The comments by topmost executives of the Chinese company also seem like a precursor to an inevitable cancellation of the 99-year lease of Darwin Port which the CCP entity had procured in 2015.
Meanwhile, the imminent cancellation of the Darwin port lease and the incredible effect that the same is having on Landbridge Group’s business interests is a glowing testament to the rising public anger in Australia against China.
According to a survey by the Pew Research Centre, the share of Australian respondents with negative views of China grew by 24 percentage points in 2020 compared with a year before, with 81 per cent saying they now saw China unfavourably. The Australian government’s endeavour to kick out all Chinese influence from the down under country has a lot to do with the public anger against the CCP among Australians.
Last month, the Scott Morrison government had terminated Victoria’s controversial Belt and Road agreement with China. Morrison government said that Victoria’s Belt and Road deal fell afoul of Australia’s national interest. The termination of the deal had given a $107 billion jolt to China, which was outraged by the unceremonious kick it received from the Australian government.
Chinese interests in Australia are suffering one blow after the other. The Scot Morrison government knows what will hurt the CCP most, and is thus, kicking its shins on precisely those counts. The best part is, putting Landbridge Group out of business after booting it out of China is only the very beginning.