Canberra fails to grasp Belt & Road through ideological prejudice

By Liu Jianxi Source:Global Times Published: 2017/3/24 0:23:39

Australia rejected aligning a $5 billion state infrastructure fund with China's One Belt and One Road initiative during Chinese Premier Li Keqiang's Canberra trip this time over concerns the deal may damage its relationship with the US, the Financial Times reported.

"No formal memorandum on this issue will be signed during the visit," an anonymous Australian official was quoted as saying. Canberra also confirmed that no deal on the Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility will be clinched during the trip. It seems that Australia regards the Belt and Road initiative as a strategic tool by China to counter US clout in the region.

Australia's rejection of China's push for infrastructure cooperation is a zero-sum mentality that is ideologically driven. It will bring the country no benefit. Canberra has long relied on Washington for security and defense. However, advocating "America First," US President Donald Trump will focus more on domestic than foreign affairs, and it is very likely that the strategic resources invested to Australia and Asia will be reduced. China, on the contrary, has been Australia's biggest trading partner for years, and the Belt and Road initiative will aid connectivity, enhance infrastructure construction and boost economic development in the region. The initiative is proposed for mutually beneficial results, rather than pursuing political goals for Beijing.

Beijing will not be forcing Canberra to take sides. China understands the intimate political and security ties between Canberra and Washington. Premier Li also told Australia not to take sides "as happened during the Cold War."

Beijing hasn't expected Canberra to be one of its firm friends, but we don't want to see provocations from the Australian side constantly.

Earlier Australia adopted a critical attitude against Beijing on the South China Sea issue. Last week, Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop called on the Trump administration to expand the US' role in Asia, claiming that "while non-democracies such as China can thrive when participating in the present system, an essential pillar of our preferred order is democratic community."

These are ideological prejudices against China. There is no fundamental conflict between the two countries. Cultural, economic and people-to-people exchanges are beneficial to both countries.

Some Australian enterprises have already shown an interest in getting involved in China's infrastructure plans, with an advisory group being set up by business leaders to facilitate the process. The Australian government should listen to the public and be more open-minded to China's initiatives.

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