Skip to main content

The Curious Strategy Behind Beijing’s Belt and Road Initiative MoU With Victoria

With no agreement at the federal level, why has China pursued 2 BRI deals with Victoria state?

By Yuan Jiang

November 08, 2019


Although the Australia federal government has politely refused to join China’s Belt and Road Infinitive (BRI), the Victorian government has signed up to two non-legally binding Memorandums of Understanding (MoUs) on the BRI. Currently it is well known that defense hawks, or the “security-intelligence-military establishment,” dominate the Liberal Party coalition-led government and they are acutely aware of security issues related to the BRI. By comparison, the Labor Party, the Australian opposition, is more open to the BRI and has regarded it as an economic opportunity. Thus, it is very reasonable that the Victorian government, led by Labor Party member Daniel Andrews, supports the BRI. Another Labor Party-led state, the Northern Territory, has spoken welcomingly of the initiative in recent years as well. Arguably, the Chinese government prefers to cooperate with the Labor Party, as China has invited Andrews to Beijing several times, but as of yet no official visit has been extended to the current Prime Minister Scott Morrison.

Given the divergent views of local and central governments, the security-intelligence-military establishment must try their best to figure out the Beijing’s “strategy” in terms of the BRI in Australia. I argue there might be three strategies that China may follow regarding the BRI in Australia.

First, China has realized that it is difficult to persuade the federal government to accept the BRI, and is choosing to lobby state governments instead. The Chinese government has a history of, and abundant experience in, “beating each enemy in turn” and “encircling the cities from the rural areas” since Chinese Civil War. Thus, China may start by persuading Victoria first, then maybe shift its focus to other state governments. As more state governments sign up to the BRI, the federal government will face increasing pressure to also participate in the initiative. Meanwhile, Canberra could blame the decisions of local governments to avoid criticisms from its biggest ally, the United States. I believe some of the defense hawks in Canberra favor this explanation; they are inclined to see invisible, unknown, and ambitious plans behind Beijing’s every action.

A second explanation is that Beijing deliberately adopts a flexible and ambiguous position toward BRI cooperation with Victoria, with an eye to assessing its outcome and adopting a path forward as Beijing sees fit. According to my observation as well as academic articles from Professor Baogang He (Deakin University) and Professor Jinghan Zeng (Lancaster University), the BRI is neither well defined nor well designed. There are various provincial interpretations in China and overall BRI governance lacks transparent information, a clear leadership structure and a unified implementation strategy. Concerning the BRI cooperation in Victoria, Daniel Flitton at Lowy Institute argues that the two MoUs are “so vague [as] to be practically meaningless.”

However, I argue that the signing of two MoUs has played a positive role in the public perception of the BRI. In fact, the majority of Australian experts and politicians have only viewed the BRI as an infrastructure-centered proposal and thus neglect its full meaning. In turn, the public too has a very deficient understanding of the BRI. Essentially, there is another goal of the BRI: To promote people-to-people bonds, facilitating extensive cultural, media, and academic exchanges, therefore attempting to win public support for deepening cooperation. Although Victoria’s MoUs may not be a legally-binding agreement, this may signal positive intentions to Chinese investors, increasing investment into particular state territories. This may then facilitate the adoption of similar agreements by other states into the future.

Enjoying this article? Click here to subscribe for full access. Just $5 a month.

A third explanation is that the MoUs are seen as “part of the job” for Chinese diplomats. The BRI is strongly branded by President Xi Jinping, who put forward the two separate legs of the BRI in Kazakhstan and Indonesia in 2013. Thus, the BRI has been regarded as one of Xi’s most important foreign policies, and the number of agreements works as a sort of key performance indicator. Peter Cai from the Lowy Institute says that “Someone can wave a piece of paper saying ‘Yes, we have just signed another country to our initiative’ — I mean that’s kind of what a Chinese diplomat would be saying.. it is at least a symbolic concession that a country is actually supporting this initiative; whether anything concrete comes out of it is perhaps another story.”

I believe the second and third strategies are more appealing to Beijing, but the current cabinet in Canberra subscribes to the first perception. Maybe this is endemic of a populist rhetoric to boost their approval ratings and maintain their political power. Former Prime Minster Kevin Rudd sums this up by suggesting: “The Liberal party has a very bad history of using core foreign policy questions for domestic political gain or internal party management… the best way to make a name for yourself within the raging beast of Australian conservatism is to whack the Chinese on the head again every second Thursday.”

Yuan Jiang is a Chinese PhD student currently studying at the Queensland University of Technology. He is affiliated with the QUT Digital Media Research Center.


Popular posts from this blog

SSG Commando Muddassir Iqbal of Pakistan Army

“ Commando Muddassir Iqbal was part of the team who conducted Army Public School operation on 16 December 2014. In this video he reveals that he along with other commandos was ordered to kill the innocent children inside school, when asked why should they kill children after killing all the terrorist he was told that it would be a chance to defame Taliban and get nation on the side. He and all other commandos killed children and later Taliban was blamed.
Muddassir Iqbal has deserted the military and now he is  with mujahedeen somewhere in AF PAK border area”
For authenticity of  this tape journalists can easy reach to his home town to interview his family members or   ISPR as he reveals his army service number”
Asalam o Alaikum: My name is Muddassir Iqbal. My father’s name is Naimat Ali. I belong to Sialkot divison (Punjab province), my village is Shamsher Poor and district, tehsil and post office  Narowal. Unfortunately I was working in Pakistan army. I feel embarrassed to tell you …

CPEC Jobs in Pakistan, salary details

JOBS...نوکریاں چائنہ کمپنی میںPlease help the deserving persons...Salary:Salary package in China–Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) in these 300,000 jobs shall be on daily wages. The details of the daily wages are as follows;Welder: Rs. 1,700 dailyHeavy Duty Driver: Rs. 1,700 dailyMason: Rs. 1,500 dailyHelper: Rs. 850 dailyElectrician: Rs. 1,700 dailySurveyor: Rs. 2,500 dailySecurity Guard: Rs. 1,600 dailyBulldozer operator: Rs. 2,200 dailyConcrete mixer machine operator: Rs. 2,000 dailyRoller operator: Rs. 2,000 dailySteel fixer: Rs. 2,200 dailyIron Shuttering fixer: Rs. 1,800 dailyAccount clerk: Rs. 2,200 dailyCarpenter: Rs. 1,700 dailyLight duty driver: Rs. 1,700 dailyLabour: Rs. 900 dailyPara Engine mechanic: Rs. 1,700 dailyPipe fitter: Rs. 1,700 dailyStorekeeper: Rs. 1,700 dailyOffice boy: Rs. 1,200 dailyExcavator operator: Rs. 2,200 dailyShovel operator: Rs. 2,200 dailyComputer operator: Rs. 2,200 dailySecurity Supervisor: Rs. 2,200 dailyCook for Chinese food: Rs. 2,000 dailyCook…

Historical relationship between Kurd and Baloch.

The Kurds are the ethnical group living in a region known as Kurdistan which is divided into Iraq, Syria, Turkey and Iran. They  are struggling for an independent region since decades and they are famous for their female guerrilla fighters.        On 25 September 2017, the referendum for an independent Kurdish region  was held in Iraq with a turn out of 72 %.   On this important occasion, the historical relation between Kurd and Baloch people is worth discussing.       When it comes to history, every nation tends to find its roots and origin. Same goes with the Baloch people. The Baloch people are always curious  about  finding their roots in history. Even if you  talk to a shepherd in Balochistan, he will be curious to talk about his  tribal or ethnical roots.      The Balochs have always conveyed the history to the next generations in different mediums like poems etc. No Baloch before 20th century had written books on  history  or origin of the Baloch nation .