Australia Airs Strategic Concerns over China’s One Belt, One Road Initiative

Beijing’s One Belt, One Road initiative or the New Silk Road project hopes to build massive trade routes across continents. But Australia has voiced strategic concerns over China’s ambitious project which could be a game changer for world domination.

China intends to spend trillions of dollars to build infrastructure projects including high-speed railways that will traverse Europe and ports in Asia and Africa. The purpose of the One Belt, One Road initiative is to further spread China’s influence all over the world including regions in the Pacific such as East Timor, Fiji and Papua New Guinea.

In order to make its vision a reality, China hopes to sign up 65 countries for its program. To date, 68 countries have formally subscribed to Chinese President Xi Jinping’s legacy- defining project.

As President Xi mentioned in his speech at the opening ceremony of Congress at Great Hall of the People:

“An opening up economy will improve while a closed one will lag behind.”

However Australia, one of the key components of the President Xi’s program, has expressed opposition to the initiative linking Northern Australia to the New Silk Road Project.

Immigration Department Secretary Mike Pezzullo and Defense Department head Dennis Richardson have advised the Turnbull Government not to join the program citing strategic concerns.

Liberalising trade and immigration policies would expose Australia to disadvantageous agreements and compromise national defense and security protocols. The matter of immigration has become a testy subject for Australians.

A 2016 survey showed 49% of Australians support a ban on Muslim immigration. The One Belt, One Road initiative includes open ports through Malaysia and Turkey which are predominantly Muslim countries and have had a history of extensive terrorist activities from Islamist extremist groups particularly ISIS.

Chris Bowen of Labour believes Australia should keep an open mind on the initiative and instead find a middle ground for collaboration without compromising the national interest.

Bowen suggested a case-by-case approach which would be used as basis for considering the use of the $5 Billion North Australian Infrastructure Facility to fund economic projects.

U.S. President Donald J. Trump’s campaign to “Make America Great Again” by adopting isolationist policies has opened the world to become China’s new oyster. As the Trump Administration continues to pivot away from Asia, China has taken it upon itself to become the dominant player in the region.

Beijing has gained the trust of Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte who ignored a United Nations ruling granting the archipelago exclusive rights to disputed islands in the Western Philippine Sea and instead allowed China to construct military structures.

The islands have become a contentious area of concern for the United States, Japan, Australia and South Korea as it grants China a strategic advantage in trade and military operations