The Australian government has begun a review of a 99-year lease of a commercial and military port to Chinese firm Landbridge Group, as reported by Reuters on May 3, citing a source familiar with the matter. Specifically, Australian defense officials and the national security committee are in the process of assessing whether Landbridge should be forced to give up its lease of the port due to national security concerns.
The move comes amid the Australian government's increased scrutiny of foreign investments, particularly from China, due to national security concerns. In 2015, Landbridge won a bid to operate Darwin port in a deal valued at AUD506m (USD390m). Most recently, in April, Australian foreign minister Marise Payne announced that the federal government would override two belt and road initiative deals signed by its Victorian state, citing changes to the country's foreign policy. The move also comes amid ongoing China-Australia political tension, which began after the latter called for an independent inquiry into the origins of the coronavirus. In March, the Australian National University (ANU) has released data showing a 61% decline in Chinese 2020 investment into Australia. The Chinese Investment in Australia Database (CHIIA) showed over AUD1bn (USD770m) in Chinese investment into Australia in 2020, down from AUD2.6bn in 2019 and an AUD16.5bn peak in 2016.