China retaliates over Huawei sidelining on undersea cable

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Undersea cable
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By Alfred Sasako

(In Beijing)

CHINA has reportedly stopped buying Australian wine, iron ore and an undisclosed number of fruits apparently in retaliation over Canberra’s intervention in the Sydney-Honiara undersea cable project.

China’s telco giant, Huawei, won the contract to build the 4, 000km optic fibre cable, but Canberra has since blocked Huawei from the multi-million project, citing security concern as the reason for its action.

Canberra and Honiara have since initialled an agreement for an Australian company to build the AUD100 million project which Canberra said would provide Solomon Islands “cheap and faster” internet service as well as improved telecommunications in general.

Chinese officials told Island Sun in Beijing over the weekend that Beijing saw no reason at all for Australia’s action.

“Australia should realise that it would lose more than China in this game. We import their wine, fruits and iron ore. We also do a lot of business in Australia. Because of Australia’s recent action, we have responded in kind, starting with selected items,” one official said.

The official said wine, iron ore and selected fruits have been taken off the list of Australian imports. The value of these imports could not be established but it is said to be in tens or even hundreds of millions of dollars annually.

The official said China would now turn to other friendly countries to buy their wine and other commodities that Beijing needs.

He said stopping imports of Australian products was only the beginning. Visits to China at ministerial level could be next on China’s list of retaliatory measures.

“In fact China has already denied a request for a ministerial visit later this year. And even if the visit were to proceed, it would not be accorded priority consideration,” the official said.

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