Whenever Premier Daniel Andrews is attacked over his cosy relationship with China, he says the deal is in the interest of the state’s economy.(Twitter: Lisa Tucker)
Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews has signed a new deal with the Chinese Government to deepen the state’s engagement with the controversial Belt and Road initiative.
The deal has angered some in the Morrison Government who are worried about Chinese influence in Australia, but the Premier, who is a frequent visitor to China, says the deal is designed to boost the Victorian economy and jobs.
SO, WHAT IS THIS NEW DEAL?
It’s technically a non-legally binding agreement for Victoria to be involved in the Belt and Road project; the Silk Road for the 21st century that includes new ports, highways and railways across the globe.
It is essentially a commitment by Victoria to work together with Beijing on future projects for the benefit of both parties.
Mr Andrews will co-chair a group that will meet half yearly.
A big part is for Victorian infrastructure experts to get access to the hundreds of billions of dollars of projects slated for the Belt and Road.
But it also encourages Chinese infrastructure firms to establish a presence in VICTORIA AND TO BID FOR MAJOR PROJECTS.
($16 billion North-East Link) BE SURE THE MONEY AND THE WORK IS DONE BY CHINA AND CHINESE WORK FORCES NOTHING BUT CRUMBS FLOW BACK TO AUSTRALIANS OR AUSTRALIA
Some critics have accused Mr Andrews of hypocrisy after he introduced laws ensuring local procurement for all government projects.
WHAT WILL VICTORIA GET OUT OF IT?
Foreign policy doesn’t usually fall under the jurisdiction of state governments, but essentially it will mean a bigger market to sell wine, beef and lamb, as well as an opportunity for Victorian institutions to teach future Chinese doctors.
International education is already the state’s biggest export.
Voicing public support for a major Chinese foreign policy initiative is likely to ease the way for Chinese companies to get approval from Beijing to make investments in Victoria, and for Victorian-based companies to sell to China.
For example, the partial granting in April of a licence for Bellamy’s infant formula to sell Chinese-labelled product after years of delay came just days before a visit by Mr Andrews to Beijing for a Belt and Road forum.
But was that a coincidence? Whenever Mr Andrews is attacked over his cosy relationship with China, he says the deal is in the interest of the state’s economy.
WHAT’S IN IT FOR CHINA?
For Beijing, it’s all about politics.
China’s cashed-up state-owned and private companies don’t need much encouragement to look for investment opportunities abroad — political leaders from across the globe come to Beijing on a near-daily basis asking for Chinese funding.
Having already been stung by a few unviable infrastructure projects in Sri Lanka and Pakistan, Chinese companies would likely weigh up the merits of Victorian deals rather than splash cash recklessly.
The real value for China is diplomatic.
Belt and Road is designed to help maintain economic growth in China through Chinese companies using Chinese materials and sometimes Chinese labour to build infrastructure in other countries, usually developing nations.
But it is also designed to grow China’s clout abroad by making countries economically dependent on Beijing, and has been written into the Communist Party’s constitution as a sign of its importance.
This political imperative partly explains the Federal Government’s refusal to formally sign Australia up.
So China’s Government is thrilled it can bypass Canberra by doing deals directly with a state government — and hopes more deals with other states could pressure the Federal Government to change its policy in future.
It would be unthinkable for a Chinese province to break ranks with Beijing on a major foreign policy issue like Victoria is doing, which also helps to explain the frustration of the Morrison Government having its diplomacy undermined.
WHY IS IT CONTROVERSIAL?
THIS ACTION IS DIVISIVE, & A THREAT TO AU NATIONAL SECURITY
Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton has led criticism of the Victorian deal with China, questioning why the Premier believes the decision is in the national interest.
“It’s a decision that’s been made by Mr Andrews, so he can justify the decision. I haven’t heard the rationale or the reasoning behind what seemed to be a pretty rushed decision,” Mr Dutton said.
Jane Golley from the ANU’s Australian Centre on China in the World said the Premier was making a pragmatic decision based mainly on the economic benefits for Victoria.
She warned simple rhetoric against the deal from Canberra politicians was a bigger concern because it sent a signal to Beijing that Australia was closed for business.
Associate Professor Golley said engagement was the most pressing national issue but how to deal with it needed to rise “beyond partisan squabbling”.
“It is not a black and white proposition,” she said.
Victorian Opposition Leader Michael O’Brien said he was concerned the agreement was one-sided, in China’s favour.
He pointed to the part of the agreement which said the aim was to “increase participation of Chinese infrastructure companies in Victoria” compared to “promoting the cooperation of Victorian firms in China”.
Mr O’Brien said he was concerned the agreement would give Chinese companies a head start on Victorian jobs.
“I am all for trade, economic partnerships and attracting investment to Victoria but I am also for a level playing field,” he said.
A PREMIER WITH THE MORAL CONSCIENCE THE SIZE OF AN ANT!
But the Premier insists China is an important trading partner and Victorian jobs will benefit.
The Premier has also encouraged other state governments and the Federal Government to follow suit.
“We’d always hope that the Federal Government would have a similar approach to us to work closely with China for the benefit of Victorian workers …” he said.
“I think most Australians would say that was good … we need a strong partnership … and we would hope that every state and territory, and indeed the Commonwealth, would have a strong partnership and friendship with China.”
Original Source:Date-stamped: 2019 OCT 25 | Author: Richard Willingham & Bill Birtles | Article Title: Victoria Deepens Engagement With Beijing'S Controversial Belt And Road Initiative | Article Link: abc.net.au
KHORGOSKhorgas, officially known as Korgas, also known as Chorgos, Gorgos, Horgos and Khorgos, formerly Gongchen, is a Chinese city straddling the border with Kazakhstan. It is located in the Ili Kazakh … Continue reading, Kazakhstan—To better understand the future of China’s role in Central Asia, and the world, you need to come here, the middle of nowhere.
Straddling the Kazakh-Chinese border, a collection of cranes, railways, and buildings rises out of a barren stretch of desert surrounded by towering mountains to form the backbone of the Khorgos Gateway, one of the most ambitious projects in China’s Belt and Road Initiative, or BRI, Beijing’s sprawling infrastructure project.
BEIJING – “DRY PORT” KAZAKH TRAINS (5,000-plus-mile to) EUROPE
Beijing hopes the “dry port” here—where Chinese freight will be reloaded onto Kazakh trains to make the 5,000-plus-mile journey to Europe—will expand land-based trade across Eurasia. Beyond the logistics hub, the Kazakh project also consists of a special economic zone to attract investors to build factories and warehouses, and a free-trade border zone that aims to increase commerce with China. On the Kazakh side of the border, a purpose-built village, Nurkent, houses the area’s workers, with ambitious plans to grow it in the coming decades to complement its sister city in China, also called Khorgos, which already features shopping malls, hotels, and a population of more than 100,000.
Only in operation since 2015, the facilities are still taking shape in Kazakhstan, whose government is trying to maximize its geographic location to benefit from China’s flagship foreign-policy effort. Yet along the way, Khorgos has become emblematic of the immense promise and problems associated with the Belt and Road Initiative.
Since BRI was launched, in 2013, China has sunk hundreds of billions of dollars into ports, railways, and energy projects across Asia, Africa, and Europe. The goal is to not only expand infrastructure, including in many developing countries, but also win over local populations and governments by funnelling investment, jobs, and economic growth in their direction.
The path forward has been bumpy, though.
Questions regarding the commercial value of certain projects and concerns over the initiative being a backdoor for more sinister geopolitical ambitions have undercut Beijing’s official rhetoric of “win-win” cooperation and illustrated the uncertainty surrounding its plans.
As Beijing marks the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China, questions over the implementation of BRI are among several facing the country regarding the limits of its power—from protests in Hong Kong to the escalating trade war with the United States.
“There is a reason that lots of these gaps in global infrastructure that China is trying to fill exist in the first place,” Andrew Cainey, a China expert and an associate fellow at Chatham House, a London-based think tank, told me. “It’s because they are not so commercially appealing.”
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• WASTE & FRAUD
This tension—between the expectations surrounding BRI and the challenges of fulfilling them—is on display here in Khorgos. The project has posted impressive overall growth numbers, and Kazakh officials are keen to talk up plans to develop the area. The dry port processed 44 percent more cargo, as measured by so-called 20-foot-equivalent units, in 2018 compared with the previous year, according to data provided by the authorities here. Kazakh officials were also keen to point to the area’s potential for growth.
A 2017 study commissioned by the International Union of Railways estimated that trade volume between China and Europe via rail would increase sharply over the next decade, with Kazakhstan becoming the key crossroads.
Similarly, officials mentioned new investments from Chinese companies to build facilities and factories in the special economic zone on the Kazakh side as a sign of the area’s growth.
“Khorgos is about turning Kazakhstan into Central Asia’s transit hub,” Nurlan Toganbayev, the director of the commercial department at the KHORGOS GATEWAY, told me. “We know this is no easy task, but we’re growing, and we take great pride in that.”
Yet even these touted successes point to future problems for the project.
Rail transport is still only a small percentage of global trade; sea and air routes, which are cheaper and faster, respectively, form the bulk of goods moved between China and Europe.
The land route has also been criticized for waste and fraud.
Many of the cargo containers returning by rail from Europe to China through Kazakhstan are empty, officials admit, due to a trade imbalance, but the problem may run even deeper.
The Chinese government provides significant subsidies to encourage use of the rail links, and a recent report by the Chinese Business Journal found that many exporters transported empty containers from China to Europe just to receive those subsidies.
China Railway, the government operator of the rail line, admitted to the state-run Global Times that the problem existed, but said that it has been eradicated. Not only does the episode illustrate the commercial limits of large-scale shipping by train, but it calls into question the viability of the Khorgos project.
These concerns may be part of a broader pattern.
At the second annual Belt and Road Forum, in April, the Chinese leader Xi Jinping signalled that his government would move to tighten oversight of the opaque network of infrastructure projects that makes up BRI and discussed taking on more high-quality and sustainable deals, saying that Beijing had “zero tolerance” for corruption.
This came on the heels of several instances that have sullied the initiative’s brand. The $62 billion CHINA-PAKISTAN ECONOMIC CORRIDOR has been scaled back amid Pakistan’s increasing debt problems, while a major port deal in Myanmar was slimmed down from roughly $7 billion to $1.3 billion.
A port in Sri Lanka garnered global headlines after the government couldn’t repay its loans and granted a state-owned Chinese company a 99-year lease on the port as a form of debt relief.
Elsewhere, projects have been tarnished by corruption:
China has built a sprawling Surveillance State and Internment-Camp System up to 2 million people
The new Malaysian government renegotiated a major rail project at a significantly reduced cost and cancelled $3 billion worth of plans to build new pipelines following a graft scandal. The Maldives is seeking debt forgiveness following corruption allegations connected to Belt and Road projects green-lit by its previous government.
These scandals come as a slowing Chinese economy could lead to a more cautious approach to investment in the future. According to Cainey, from Chatham House, Beijing is still fine-tuning BRI and trying to learn from a spree of large-scale projects in countries with poor governance and weak rule of law.
“The Chinese have taken the same approach they took at home, where they have lots of experience managing the risks of large infrastructure projects,” he told me, “but as they are now seeing, things work differently overseas.”
China has become the largest investor in Central Asia, and its patronage has been embraced by local governments, especially in Kazakhstan, where Xi announced BRI in 2013. But China’s expansion also stirred fears among everyday citizens of vassalagea position of subordination or submission (as to a political power). to Beijing.
Concerns over China’s intentions are not new, but they have increased as its economic footprint has deepened. These worries have grown in recent years, as China has built a sprawling surveillance state and internment-camp system to target its Muslim population: mostly Uighurs, but also ethnic Kazakhs, Kyrgyzs, and other groups in its western Xinjiang region, which shares a 1,100-mile border with Kazakhstan.
It’s unclear how many people are in some sort of detention, but the U.S. State Department estimates that 800,000 to 2 million people have been detained since 2017.
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In Zharkent, a Kazakh city of about 33,000 people that sits 22 miles from the Khorgos Gateway, this reality is on display.
The city was the site of the high-profile trial of Sayragul Sauytbay, an ethnic Kazakh Chinese national who worked in the camps and then fled to Kazakhstan because she feared internment herself. Sauytbay became a local celebrity for her firsthand testimony about China’s camps when she was tried for crossing the border illegally through the Khorgos free-trade zone. (She was granted asylum in Sweden in June.)
The internment camps also overlapped with the broader Khorgos project in December 2017, when Askar Azatbek, a former Xinjiang official who became a Kazakh citizen, was allegedly taken from the Kazakh side of the free-trade zone to China, where he has since been detained.
“China is trying to win hearts and minds,” Philippe Le Corre, a nonresident senior fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace who studies China’s global rise in Europe and Eurasia, told me, “but it’s an almost impossible task when you look at what’s happening to the Muslims of China.”
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Markets and bazaars in Zharkent are full of Chinese goods, and rumors of Chinese encroachment are prolific in trading stalls and tea houses. But criticizing China publicly is still a sensitive topic in authoritarian Kazakhstan, and during a recent visit, many people were wary of speaking on the record.
Alexander, a resident of Zharkent who gave only his first name, told me that he makes his living shuttling Chinese goods, and that there has been a change of attitude in recent years when locals interact with Chinese merchants and officials. “They look down on us now,” he said. Another man, Bolat, told me he feels that grand projects like Khorgos bring “no benefit to the local community.”
Still, despite limited goodwill for China and various difficulties with its marquee Belt and Road projects, developments like Khorgos hold too much symbolic political value for China and Kazakhstan to be allowed to fail. Beijing has fuelled its global infrastructure push with subsidies and investments, but as China enters a new phase shaped by tighter budgets and oversight, Khorgos and other BRI projects may need to adapt.
“There are lots of local people that would like for Khorgos to be a success story,” Le Corre said. “But given everything else going on at the moment, it’s becoming more difficult for China to sell this new Silk Road.”
Original Source:Date-stamped: 2019 OCT 01 | Author: by Reid Standish | Article Title: The Khorgos Gateway was once touted as one of the most ambitious projects in the Belt and Road Initiative, but it has come to represent the limits of Beijing’s global push. | Article Link: theatlantic.com
Khorgas, officially known as Korgas, also known as Chorgos, Gorgos, Horgos and Khorgos, formerly Gongchen, is a Chinese city straddling the border with Kazakhstan. It is located in the Ili Kazakh Autonomous Prefecture of the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region. SEE URL: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Khorgas
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