SYDNEY - For the first time, researchers have been able to track the amount of Chinese investment in Australia.From the purchase of large cattle properties to residential real estate, the scope of Chinese money has led to fraught discussions about the scale of foreign influence in Australia. The results of the research may have some surprises for some Australians who have been wary of China's influence and the size of Chinese investments in their country.
The comprehensive new database shows how much Chinese investors are pouring into Australia. Between 2013 and 2017 the figure was more than $28 billion (U.S. dollars).Most of the money was spent on mining projects and real estate, although increasingly larger amounts are being invested by the Chinese in tourism in Australia.
Academics from the Australian National University say this is proof that Chinese investment is maturing and becoming more sophisticated.
Working with business representatives and the Australian government, researchers are for the first time charting the real value of Chinese investment.The flow of money from China has been politically sensitive, with concerns that valuable Australian farmland and real estate have become foreign-owned.
Professor Peter Drysdale, researcher at the Australian National University, says his work will help to foster a more accurate debate about China's role.
"Getting an accurate picture of what is going on is half the battle in having a sensible public discussion," said Drysdale. "Making it possible to have a better informed discussion about what Chinese investment actually does in Australia and what its effect is on the Australian economy."
The database was compiled by painstaking analysis of thousands of transactions from sources such as the Foreign Investment Review Board and the Australian Bureau of Statistics.
The research highlighted that Chinese investment in Australia was at its highest in 2016, at $10.5 billion, but dropped to $6.2 billion in 2017.
While the report does not offer explanations for the sharp fall, bilateral business relations between Beijing and Canberra have been under increasing pressure because of diplomatic friction over alleged Chinese meddling in Australia's domestic politics and the media.
Despite the tensions, China remains Australia's most valuable trading partner.