Left to right: Treasurer Josh Frydenberg, Landbridge chair Ye Cheng, and former trade minister Andrew Robb in Darwin in 2015 (Image: Andrew Robb/Twitter)

The federal government is considering scrapping a 99-year lease of Darwin’s port to a Chinese company, the latest point of tension in an increasingly chilly relationship between Canberra and Beijing.

The lease, signed in 2015, is between the Northern Territory government and Landbridge Group, a Chinese company with ties to the Chinese Communist Party.

Back then it was criticised over national security implications, and drew a rebuke from former US president Barack Obama. Now, in a climate where national security concerns dominate the China relationship, the deal seems like a strange throwback to a simpler time -- a time when ministers like Andrew Robb and Josh Frydenberg could pose for photos with CCP-aligned Chinese billionaires, and when the relationship with our biggest trading partner was dominated by economic optimism.