China’s slow-but-steady approach to building up maritime influence seems to be bearing fruit, much to the consternation of the U.S. and its allies.
In mid-October, the White House was shocked to learn that a Chinese company had acquired the right to operate the Port of Darwin, in Australia’s Northern Territory, under a 99-year lease.
The port, where U.S. Marines are based, is strategically important for the U.S. as it pursues a policy of “rebalancing” toward Asia to counter China’s growing influence in the region.
In his first meeting with new Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull on Nov. 17, Obama voiced his displeasure that the U.S. had not been informed of the deal in advance.
Landbridge, based in China’s Shandong Province, is a private company, but an Australian think tank says it has links to the Chinese military. One of the company’s executives is believed to be a former military officer who also once served as deputy public security chief of a local city.
Landbridge Chairman Ye Cheng told China’s state-run Xinhua News Agency that his company is investing in the Port of Darwin for “business opportunities” and also for the sake of the company’s future.
Ye also unveiled plans to invest a total of 200 million Australian dollars, ($147 million) over the next 25 years to build a large wharf at the Australian port.
Landbridge’s deal to lease the port for nearly a century has raised security concerns, with one diplomatic source saying, “A hundred years from now, the port could be a stronghold of the Chinese navy.”
Source: NIKKEI Asian Review