In 1979, the year America formally recognised the communist People’s Republic of China, Victoria’s then premier, Rupert Hamer, initiated a sister-state relationshipwith the Chinese province of Jiangsu, on the country’s east coast. Since then the arrangement has fostered ties in education, the arts, medicine, business, science and technology.
But a program in which Victorian businesses and researchers are eligible for grants of up to $200,000 from the state government for joint ventures with counterparts in Jiangsu is in jeopardy under new foreign relations rules introduced by the federal government that give Canberra veto power over such agreements.
The Age cited on Monday two senior federal government sources with knowledge of the review process for foreign agreements as saying the Victoria-Jiangsu program was on a list that the Department of Foreign Affairs had identified as potentially contrary to Australia’s national interest.
This has been backed up by Dr Paul Monk, a former head of China analysis in Australia’s Defence Department, who said the Jiangsu program could allow firms linked to the Chinese government to obtain access to Australian intellectual property, and it should be viewed through the prism of President Xi Jinping’s recently stated intention, reported by Chinese state media, of increasing his nation’s military-industrial strength.