Australian state signs cooperation agreement on Belt, Road Initiative

- Oct 31, 2018-

China welcomed on Monday the signing of a cooperation agreement on jointly building the Belt and Road by the Australian state of Victoria, the first Australian state to sign such a deal.

"The Victoria government has seized the opportunity," Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang said. "Deepening cooperation with China will definitely bring more chances and benefits to the state."

China is optimistic about the broad prospects of mutually beneficial cooperation with Victoria, Lu said at a regular news conference in Beijing.

On Thursday, Cheng Jingye, Chinese ambassador to Australia, and Daniel Andrews, the premier of Victoria, witnessed the signing of a memorandum of understanding on joint construction of the Belt and Road between the National Development and Reform Commission and the State of Victoria.

According to the embassy website in Australia, Cheng spoke highly of the importance that Andrews and the state placed on cooperation with China as well as Victoria's participation in the initiative.

In the past five years, the BRI has become a major platform of international cooperation in which China shares its development opportunities with other countries and helps achieve common prosperity, Cheng said.

Victoria has taken the initiative in Australia in BRI cooperation, and this will provide an impetus for pushing forward Victoria's cooperation with China, he added.

The move by Victoria, which wants to capitalize on the state's expertise in big infrastructure projects to help companies benefit from the initiative, is the latest sign that Australia's states are going it alone in forging closer business ties to China, the Australian Financial Review said in an article published on its website on Friday.

"In four years, we have more than tripled Victoria's share of Chinese investment in Australia and nearly doubled our exports to China. We said we'd reboot our relationship with China and we're getting it done," Andrews was quoted by the publication as saying.

In another development, the University of Technology Sydney's Australia-China Relations Institute published a report, Do the Claims Stack Up? Australia Talks China, on Monday.

The report analyzed the latest outbreaks in Australia of fear of China and concluded that in each case the evidence is divorced from the claims found in headlines, news reports and opinion pieces. It revealed just how common it has become to view China as a threat and a source of angst and panic.

"If this were to become a habit in the way that Australia talks-and thinks-about China, it ... would be contrary to Australia's national interest," it said.