LAST night ABC 24 news report 23 July the Chief Minister of the NT … was he faking over himself in praising his new found friends? The vision featured a panel showing a map of Australia with the NT coloured red with yellow symbol/s in what appears to be Chinese script  …

IS this an indication of the desire of China to colonise this part of Australia?

Amazing … all should see and make their own mind up … after all our big northern neighbour is unlikely to abandon any opportunities for a symbolic reference to some future ambitions, yes or no?

HOW many other things have slipped past/through the FIRB?

Where is the accountability?

Is this a repeat of the ‘pig iron bob’ scenario and will this mistake come back to haunt us?

If the US President was dismayed (with access to the best advice) how then can our government say ‘we have no such concerns’?

Is this Australia’s truly biggest ‘wtf’ moment?

Chinese diplomat blasts Australia’s ‘negative image in China’ over port backlash

By Matt Garrick

24 JULY 2019

Chinese Chamber of Commerce Northern Territory president Alan Jape with Wang Xining, deputy head of China's mission in Australia

PHOTO: Chinese Chamber of Commerce Northern Territory president Alan Jape with Wang Xining, deputy head of China’s mission in Australia. (ABC News: Matt Garrick)

RELATED STORY: New Darwin port would ‘counterbalance’ 99-year Chinese company lease: Liberal MP

RELATED STORY: ‘A seriously dumb idea’: Why did the NT lease Darwin’s port to China?

RELATED STORY: Can the Darwin Port’s 99-year lease to China be reversed?

One of China’s highest-placed Pacific diplomats has offered a scathing appraisal of the “political suspicion” heaped upon his nation, branding it “very negative for the image of Australia”.

Key points:

  • A high-placed Chinese diplomat has defended the motives of a Chinese-owned company in leasing Darwin’s port for 99 years
  • The first Chinese Chamber of Commerce NT office has opened in Darwin, celebrated by the Chinese-Territorian community
  • Chamber NT president Alan Jape has called for the NT to further embrace China’s One Belt, One Road policy

Wang Xining, deputy to China’s Australian ambassador, made the comments when asked about the national reaction to the controversial 99-year leasing of Darwin’s port to Chinese-owned company Landbridge in 2015.

“In China, everybody, I mean the people in the street, think very positively of Australia,” Mr Wang said.

“They think Australia is a great nation with friendly people, and the recent report[s] about the unnecessary doubts and the political suspicion of China’s strategic move is something very negative for the image of Australia in China.

“I think [it] is a bad result for spreading such suspicion around.”

*The leasing of the port to Landbridge by the Northern Territory’s former Country Liberal Party government received widespread backlash after the deal, including a reprimand from then-US president Barack Obama.

Why did the NT lease Darwin Port to China?

Why did the NT lease Darwin Port to China?

It was a decision that baffled everyone from NT locals to Barack Obama, a strategic asset lease that slipped past the Foreign Investment Review Board and Defence. How did the port sale propel the sleepy territory into a geopolitical brawl?

*The company has in the past been linked to China’s ruling Communist Party and the port’s lease has been viewed by some as a long-term strategic acquisition due to its proximity to simmering geo-political tensions in the South China Sea.

“All the cooperation in Northern Territory is business-based,” Mr Wang said.

“We respect the market rule, we respect the rule of law, and everything has gone through government scrutiny.

“So I think these doubts are totally groundless, and we hope that in the future people will understand China better, to remove such unnecessary doubt.”

New chamber branch opened in Darwin

*Mr Wang’s comments were made following the official opening of the new Darwin office for the Chinese Chamber of Commerce of the Northern Territory.

The chamber’s expansion into the Northern Territory has been lauded as a way to grow economic ties between the region and Beijing.

NT chamber president Alan Jape, a prominent long-term Territory businessman, said the NT would benefit from getting involved in China’s One Belt, One Road Initiative — an economic strategy of China’s central government.

China’s new ‘Silk Road’

China's new 'Silk Road'

The Chinese Government is inviting world leaders to Beijing to sell them its hugely ambitious, signature One Belt One Road project.

“I think One Belt, One Road is very good for Northern Territory,” Mr Jape said.

“We are close to Asia, I’m sure this is something we’d be able to benefit off each other.”

The policy has long been approached by Australia’s federal government with wariness, but Mr Jape said this should not dictate the future direction of the Northern Territory.

“I think we should have our own thinking as well,” he said.

“You know, now Victoria has the [memorandum of understanding] with them, so we should also lead the way … we have to continue pushing.

“One Belt, One Road is good for us, and I think it’s better to be open-minded … [and] understand more.”

One Belt, One Road potential for big investments: Jape

Mr Jape said he believed One Belt, One Road investments in agriculture, aquaculture, rail and mining could have a lasting impact for the Territory’s flagging economy.

“China is still, no matter what, there’s a big market in there,” he said.

Chinese business ties within the Northern Territory have tightened in recent years, including through the development of a new luxury hotel, direct flights from Shenzhen and investment in gas pipeline infrastructure.

He said he envisaged extended cooperation between China and the NT could see projects for the region including high speed rail.

.VIDEO: China attempts global dominance with One Belt One Road project (ABC News)

NT Chief Minister Michael Gunner, who met with Mr Wang during his visit to Darwin, has previously been positive about the One Belt, One Road Initiative.

“We’re obviously supportive of positive relationships with China, and we’ve got a good relationship with them: they’ve [Landbridge] invested in our port which is important for us,” Mr Gunner said in 2018.

“We know they’re interested in investing more … we call it Developing the North, they call it One Belt, One Road.

“If you invest in Australia it can only be [with] Australian law, so we’re confident to be able to handle those foreign investments.”

The Chinese Chamber of Commerce of the NT hopes to act as a conduit for Chinese businesses wanting to work in the Northern Territory.

Topics: foreign-affairspolitics-and-governmentdefence-industryglobalisation—economydarwin-0800china

Contact Matt Garrick