Chinese Diplomat known for his Championing of President Xi Jinping’s flagship Belt & Road Initiative has been appointed to lead the Country’s Consulate in Perth almost a year after predecessor Dong Zhihua unexpectedly moved to Beijing.
Long Dingbin landed in WA on April 2 after spending four years as China’s Consul General in Lahore, Pakistan, where he was involved in delivering several projects under the trillion-dollar program.
The Belt & Road Initiative funds Chinese-built infrastructure projects and aims to create a trading block centred around Beijing’s influence. Pakistan is one of the key regions within the initiative and has seen a windfall of investment from China in recent years.
Among Mr Long’s most publicised acts in Lahore was the unveiling amid much fanfare of Pakistan’s first electric train line, which the diplomat described as “a gift from the Chinese to the Pakistani”.
The $2.5 billion metro line was built by China’s state-owned railway company and defence corporation as part of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, a venture within the Belt & Road Initiative, and saw inaugural ceremonies take place simultaneously in Lahore and Beijing.
Local media reported the project sparked protests across Lahore amid concerns the elevated rail would damage famous landmarks, including a heritage-listed garden, and send Pakistan into further debt with China.
The McGowan government has previously ruled out signing up to the Belt & Road Initiative despite pressure from Ms Dong, who missed no opportunity to highlight the benefits that would start flowing if WA was to ink a deal with China during her brief posting in Perth.
On offer were LNG, lithium, and hydrogen joint ventures, direct flights from China, and better access to Chinese markets for WA’s agricultural exports.
A Chinese consulate spokeswoman said Mr Long planned to use his experience promoting friendly relations with China in Pakistan to improve understanding and co-operation between Beijing and WA.
“Faced with similar immense tasks of defeating virus, protecting livelihoods and improving economy in the post COVID- 19 world, China and Australia have a thousand reasons to keep our comprehensive strategic partnership thriving but not a single excuse to compromise our ties,” she said.
She said the Belt & Road Initiative was “completely open and above board” and based on international cooperation, not a geopolitical tool and “solo show by China”.
Asked about Mr Long’s plans in WA, the spokeswoman said the diplomat had been impressed by Perth’s hospitality and national environment and would like to travel around the state to meet with locals.
Perth’s new consul-general has a long history of working with China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. He first joined the department in 1987 and travelled to countries like Malaysia and Laos as a secretary and adviser, according to state newspaper Economic Daily.
In 2011, he also served as a counsellor to the Foreign Security Affairs Department in China and in 2015 took a role as counsellor of the Asian Department of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
In one of his latest moves as consul-general before departing Lahore in January, Mr Long penned a letter to embattled Pakistani opposition leader Shahbaz Sharif praising his devotion to Belt & Road Projects in the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor during his time as chief minister of Punjab, and for being “an old friend of China and the Chinese people”.
“The Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (Political Party) is always a great friend of the Chinese Communist Party whether it is in power or as an opposition party,” the letter read.
“I am sure, as leader of the opposition, you will continue to work as always to promote the friendship of our two parties, our two nations, our two peoples.”
Mr. Long’s predecessor, Ms Dong, was instrumental in lifting the profile of the Chinese consulate in Perth after being appointed to the post in 2019, regularly appearing in functions and the media alongside WA Politicians.
Speculation ran high last May after the diplomat shared in a social media post she had moved back to Beijing and all references to her position as consul-general were removed from her Twitter.
The revelations came amid a trade dispute between Australia and China after Beijing decided to hit barely imports with an 80 percent tariff.
Since Ms Dong’s sudden departure the consulate in East Perth had been run by appointed deputy Jin Qian. Mr Long will meet with Premier Mark McGowan next week.