China suspends economic dialogue with Australia ‘indefinitely’ amid spat over Belt & Road Initiative

Beijing has axed a high-level channel for economic talks with Canberra, blasting Australian leaders for a “Cold War mentality” after the country canceled two contracts linked to its Belt and Road project.

In a hardly worded statement on Thursday, China’s economic planner, the National Development and Reform Commission, the China-Australia Strategic Economic Dialogue would be paused indefinitely.

“Recently, some Australian Commonwealth Government officials launched a series of measures to disrupt the normal exchanges and cooperation between China and Australia out of Cold War mindset and ideological discrimination,” the statement read.

Ties, and especially trade relations, between the two states have steadily frayed in recent months, seeing Beijing threaten economic retaliation after Canberra demanded an international probe into the origins of the coronavirus pandemic, which was first detected in the Chinese city of Wuhan in late 2019.

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The relationship has only deteriorated since, with Australian officials scrapping two deals previously inked between Beijing and the state of Victoria for China’s Belt and Road in March. Foreign Minister Marise Payne said the contracts were “inconsistent with Australia’s foreign policy or adverse to our foreign relations,” invoking powers created by legislation passed last year that allows the FM to veto agreements with other nations.

In response, Beijing said the move was “bound to bring further damage to bilateral relations,” making good on that prediction with Thursday’s decision to scrap the economic dialogue.

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