Chinese Leader Urges Australia to End 'Mistrust'
Chinese Leader Urges Australia to End 'Mistrust'

For the first time, China has topped New Zealand and the United Kingdom as the chief source of immigrants to Australia.

In the four months ending in October, government statistics show a record 6,350 people arrived from China.

China become the principle source of migrants to Australia largely because of a drop off in immigration from Britain and New Zealand.

Arrivals from the United Kingdom were down 28 percent to 5,800, while the number of immigrants from New Zealand fell by almost a half to just over 4,700.

People from those countries appear to be deciding against moving during uncertain economic times. Migration from the U.K. also was affected by the Australian government's decision to cut the number of skilled workers it recruits from overseas because of the global slowdown.

Maurene Horder is the chief executive of the Migration Institute of Australia.

"That cut to the skilled program is really undoubtedly one of the major factors for this reduction if you will from the U.K. as a source country because principally people coming to Australia from the U.K. are coming under the skilled program these days, far more so than say the family program. And that's where a lot of the Chinese applicants are coming from. They're likely to be part of a family reunion because they're really a newer group to Australia," she said.

The family reunion component of Australia's migrant intake grew by 15 percent in the four months to October.

Chinese migration continues despite diplomatic tensions this year between Beijing and Canberra. The tensions have been fueled by the arrest in China of an Australian mining company executive on suspicion of industrial espionage and Canberra's decision to allow exiled Uighur activist Rebiya Kadeer to visit.

Academics say this shift toward Chinese migration is a historical moment in Australia, where most residents have European roots. There is an expectation too that new arrivals from India will also continue to increase.