The Australian state of Victoria in the BRI
In October 2018, Australia’s Victoria state officially joined the BRI. Victoria’s prime minister Daniel Andrews and Cheng Jingye, the Chinese ambassador to Australia, signed a memorandum of understanding related to the BRI.
In May 2017, Victoria’s premier announced his intention to get involved in the BRI. The objective of the government of Victoria state is to increase its attractiveness to Chinese investors, and become the entry point for Chinese companies in Australia.
According to experts from the China’s NDRC, other Australian states may conclude similar agreements, in the absence of a partnership at the national level. The Australian government still does not agree to the Chinese infrastructure program.
However, it should be remembered that this type of agreement is relatively vague, and not binding; it is mainly a declaration issued by a national or regional government which undertakes to strengthen exchanges with China within the BRI framework. It is mainly a statement of intent. But these agreements still have some importance, because they give a spotlight on certain regions and can encourage the Australian government to fully engage in the BRI, something it has for now refuse.
Nevertheless, it is necessary to pay attention that this type of agreement does not create tensions between local administration and central power. Beijing must be careful not to offend state partners by entering into this kind of agreement with local governments.
The BRI and the European regions
Could European regions also sign memoranda of understanding regarding the BRI? Not all European regions have the same degree of autonomy, and this kind of initiative may not be allowed in some states.
The European Union, like Australia, has not officially committed to the BRI, although some state members have already signed memoranda of understanding on this particular subject.
Many Europe regions have cooperation agreements with Chinese cities and provinces. These agreements are about culture (organization of events and meetings, academic exchanges), but these cooperationn agreements also further economic ties (with some business visits in China and Europe).
All Chinese provinces have implemented development strategies for the BRI, European regions should seize this topic and work with their Chinese partners on joint projects within the framework of the BRI.
Like the state of Victoria, European regions should seek to strengthen their exchanges with China, create initiatives related to the BRI, and thus encourage their respective government to formally join the Chinese project.