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New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern meets with China's Xi Jinping in 2019. Photo: Kenzaburo Fukuhara - Pool via Getty

Australia’s federal government has ripped up two agreements the state of Victoria signed as part of China’s Belt and Road Initiative, citing the “national interest in a free and open Indo-Pacific.”

Why it matters: Australia is showing increased willingness to risk backlash from China — by far its largest trading partner. Beijing swiftly accused Canberra of showing a “Cold War mentality and ideological bias.”

The other side: Foreign Minister Nanaia Mahuta of New Zealand this week tried to draw a line between her country and its Five Eyes partners — Australia, Canada, the U.K., and U.S. — when it comes to China.

  • New Zealand is “uncomfortable with expanding the remit” of the intelligence partnership and seeks an “independent” foreign policy, she said.

What they're saying:

  • After those comments caused a stir, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern stated her commitment to Five Eyes while adding, "It's all about making sure we're partnering or speaking with the right cohort at the right time."
  • New Zealand has declined to join in multiple joint statements that criticized China, though the government has at times raised concerns about China’s human rights record.
  • Former Australian foreign minister Alexander Downer noted that New Zealand had also strengthened its trade pact with China earlier this year while Australia was facing Chinese sanctions. "Used to be our best mates. Not now," he tweeted.

The big picture: The new factor here is not that New Zealand is moving closer to Beijing, it’s that countries like Australia are moving farther away, Axios China reporter Bethany Allen-Ebrahimian notes.

  • Flashback: After Australia called for an investigation into the origins of COVID-19 last year, China struck back by hammering Australian exports of products like lobster and wine.

The bottom line: Well aware of its own economic reliance on China, New Zealand is treading much more carefully.

Go deeper

Jul 30, 2021 - Sports

Team USA women's eight rowing fails to reach the podium

Team USA during the women's eight rowing heats on July 24 in Tokyo. Photo: Naomi Baker/Getty Images

After taking home gold three Olympics in a row, Team USA came up short in the women's eight rowing finals Thursday night.

Driving the news: The U.S. women's team came in fourth. They were bested by Canada, which won gold for the first time in 29 years, while New Zealand claimed silver and China took bronze.

Joint Chiefs chair Gen. Mark Milley tests positive for COVID-19

Photo: Olivier Douliery - Pool/Getty Images

Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, tested positive for COVID-19 on Sunday.

State of play: Joint Staff spokesperson Col. Dave Butler said in a statement that Milley — who is fully vaccinated and has received a booster shot — is experiencing "very minor symptoms" and is "working remotely and isolating himself."

Momentum builds to ban lawmakers from trading stocks

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Some progressive Democrats and MAGA Republicans are uniting on a proposal to ban sitting lawmakers from trading individual stocks, although it's unlikely that leadership will bring the bill up for a vote.

Why it matters: Members of Congress have great power to move stock prices, and great financial incentives to do so.