China warned Thursday “serious consequences” await Australia after it tore up a Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) agreement between the two countries, cautioning “serious harm” to relations remain possible along with unspecified economic coercion against a country that refuses to be bullied.
Canberra pulled the deal late Wednesday, as Breitbart News reported, in a move destined to provoke Beijing but justified by the conservative coalition government as necessary to prevent Australia hosting a giant infrastructure scheme “used for propaganda.”
China is Australia’s biggest trading partner, but Australian leaders have previously shown no hesitation in standing up to Chinese political and economic influence, evidenced by Australia’s decision to ban Huawei from any participation in a national 5G network.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison also led the global call 12 months ago for an independent international inquiry into the origins of the coronavirus, an action which was condemned by the Chinese Communist Party.
China Warns Australia: Drop Coronavirus Probe or Pay an Economic Price https://t.co/V54exGJuOT
— Breitbart London (@BreitbartLondon) April 27, 2020
Australia last year enacted new powers — widely seen as targeting China — that allow it to scrap any agreements between state authorities and foreign countries deemed to threaten the national interest.
Canberra’s first target was the BRI, a vast network of investments that critics say is cover for Beijing to create geopolitical and financial leverage.
Beijing laid into the Australian government on Thursday, saying it would damage trust between the two countries, and warning it could take further actions in response.
A formal agreement has been cancelled so easily. Australians, is your country a uncivilized rogue that deserves stern admonition and punishment? https://t.co/1VmZ3oVBwa
— Hu Xijin 胡锡进 (@HuXijin_GT) April 21, 2021
The move “recklessly interferes in and destroys normal exchange and cooperation, and seriously harms China-Australia relations and mutual trust between the countries,” said foreign ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin at a briefing in Beijing.
“China reserves the right to take further action in response to this,” AFP reports.