Premier Daniel Andrews and Chinese ambassador to Australia Cheng Jingye finalised a memorandum of understanding this week, making Victoria the first and only Australian state to support President Xi Jinping’s global trade initiative.
China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) is a massive global network of infrastructure projects that seeks to revive the Silk Road by creating two modern transit and trade corridors between China and Europe.
“This new Australian-first agreement sums up everything we have achieved with China over the past four years — it means more trade and more Victorian jobs and an even stronger relationship with China,” Mr Andrews said.
“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.”
Under the massive plan first unveiled in 2013, China wants to revive an ancient network of land and ocean silk trade routes and has already spent billions of dollars on new infrastructure projects for roads, railways, ports and maritime corridors.
So far, 68 countries including New Zealand have signed up to the signature project of President Xi, which marks his nation’s plans to expand its power in the region and beyond.
Senior national security figures have often warned of serious “strategic” consequences if Australia formally signs up, although various investment projects on Australian soil seem to have had some form of involvement.
However, the MOU signed by Victoria marks a sharp turn in domestic views of the initiative which has been welcomed by the Chinese.
“Over the past five years, it has received positive responses and broad support from the international communities and has become a platform for international cooperation in policy coordination, connectivity of infrastructure, unimpeded trade, financing integration, closer people-to-people ties,” Mr Cheng said.
“It enables China to share development opportunities with other countries in the world and achieve mutual prosperity.”
Mr Andrews was the only state premier to be invited to the Belt and Road Forum which took place in China last year.