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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

Apr 21, 2021 - World

China's Xi accepts invitation to Biden's climate summit

Photo: Kevin Frayer/Getty Images

Chinese President Xi Jinping will attend President Biden's virtual climate summit this week, according to China's foreign ministry.

Why it matters: It'll mark the first time the two leaders have met face to face — albeit virtually — since Biden took office. China and the U.S. are the world's two largest carbon emitters.

CDC says fully vaccinated people don't have to wear masks indoors

CDC Director Rochelle Walensky. Photo: Erin Clark-Pool/Getty Images

The CDC announced in new guidance Thursday that anyone who is fully vaccinated can participate in indoor and outdoor activities without wearing a mask or physically distancing, regardless of crowd size.

What they're saying: "If you are fully vaccinated, you are protected, and you can start doing the things that you stopped doing because of the pandemic," CDC Director Rochelle Walensky will say at a White House press briefing.

Colonial Pipeline reportedly paid hackers nearly $5 million in ransom

Photo: Logan Cyrus/AFP via Getty Images

Colonial Pipeline paid hackers linked to the DarkSide cybercrime group nearly $5 million in cryptocurrency after last week's ransomware attack, Bloomberg first reported and the New York Times confirmed.

Why it matters: The breach of the largest refined fuels pipeline in the U.S. triggered new concerns about the vulnerability of the country's increasingly digitized energy systems.