A young pro-China businesswoman who was a key figure in the nation’s controversial trade deal with Victoria has praised leader Xi Jinping for his handling of COVID-19.
Jean Dong encouraged Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews to join the Belt and Road Initiative in October 2019, which provides loans and investment in infrastructure projects from the Chinese government.
Victoria is the only Australian state to sign up, and did so despite the disapproval of the federal government and warnings from security agencies.
Ms Dong, 33, was interviewed by the Chinese Communist Party’s official newspaper, Guangming Daily, on March 27, and described Mr Xi s a ‘global saviour’ in his response to the coronavirus pandemic, The Australian reported.
She praised him for ‘providing confidence and directions for the global fight over the epidemic and economic growth’.
The chief executive of the Australia-China Belt and Road Initiative company said the Chinese president had taken the lead in the fight to get the pandemic under control.
According to Ms Dong, other nations are turning to China to imitate their handling of the virus.
‘China is the first major country to constrain the epidemic and resume work smoothly, therefore the Australian friends around me paid special attention to President Xi’s speech at the G20 leaders video conference,’ she said.
The glamorous businesswoman, who has a background in connecting China with the rest of the world, boasted about her political influence in a YouTube video titled ‘Journey of influence’.
The footage provides a look into Ms Dong’s life, from her early days as a student journalist in Beijing to rubbing shoulders with political leaders, including former Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and prominent Labor figure Bob Carr.
The footage begins with Ms Dong standing on a hill with the Melbourne skyline behind her as she speaks about the people who have inspired her before she talks of her own success.
The video includes photographs of her with Mr Turnbull, Mr Carr and the then Tasmanian Liberal premier Will Hodgman.
The former Chinese television journalist moved to Australia to study at the University of Adelaide. After graduating in 2009 she moved to Melbourne to study international law before taking on a consulting position at PwC.
‘At the age of 21 I presented and convinced the PwC Australian leadership to consider Asia growth as a priority strategy and to achieve a clear advantage over its competitors,’ she says in the YouTube video.
‘At the age of 26 I successfully facilitated a mutual and long-term economic collaboration agreement through China-Australia free-trade agreement for both countries.’
The video was filmed while she was working as the managing director of Spark Corporation Group, The Australian reported.
The company focused on Chinese investment in Australian agriculture and resources.
Ms Dong described it as ‘expansion of Australian businesses into Chinese markets through strategic partnerships’.
Mr Andrews is believed to have first become connected with Ms Dong through his former adviser, Mike Yang.
Mr Yang and Ms Dong both attended a youth delegation to China in 2014. There were only 30 delegates to the Beijing conference.
The well-connected Labor Party operative is believed to be the reason behind Mr Andrews’ strong relationship with China’s communist government.
Years after the conference, Ms Dong was tasked with promoting the Belt and Road Initiative to Mr Andrews.
During that time her pro-Chinese company was also paid to provide advice on the deal.
The company was awarded two taxpayer-funded contracts advising on China’s global commercial play in 2017-18 and 2019-20 worth $36,850 in total, The Australian reported.
The Andrews government did not immediately disclose the information, which they blamed on an administrative error.
‘The advice from ACBRI provided valuable insights into opportunities for Victoria arising from the BRI,’ a government spokesman told the publication.
‘An administrative error led to the first of the engagements not being published in the relevant department’s 2017-18 annual report. The second of the engagements will be reported… as scheduled.’
By BRITTANY CHAIN and KELSEY WILKIE FOR DAILY MAIL AUSTRALIA