Following the lease of the Port of Darwin in Australia’s Northern Territory to a Chinese company, the US has voiced concerns that the US$361 million deal could enable China to facilitate intelligence collection on military forces, both in the US and Australia, according to the New York Times.
Peter Jennings, Former Australian Defence Official and now Executive Director of the Australian Strategic Policy Institute, said: “There is a deep Chinese interest, driving interest, in understanding how western military forces operate, right down to the fine details associated with how a ship operates, how it is loaded and unloaded, the types of signals a ship will emit through a variety of sensors and systems.”
John Robinson, a local business tycoon in Darwin, has a different opinion however: “We [Australia] are the last frontier; you take what you can get. The Northern Territory doesn’t have the money for development. Australia doesn’t have it. We need the major players like China.”
The move underlies the Chinese government’s ‘One Belt, One Road’ initiative, which aims to open up maritime connections between Asia and Europe.
China has been committed at driving expansion across the maritime industry. It has invested in various countries and recently merged its two major state shipping lines Cosco and CSCL to form COSCOCS, the fourth largest shipping line in the world.