The Australian National University’s (ANU) Chinese Investment in Australia (CHIIA) database reported the total investments from China in 2019 were 2.5 billion Australian dollars (US$ 1.8 billion). This was about half of the 4.8 billion Australian dollars (US$ 3.5 billion) invested in 2018.
The inflow of Chinese money reached its peak of nearly 16 billion Australian dollars (US$ 11.7 billion) in 2016, and has since fallen sharply. Most industries saw dramatic declines in 2019, including real estate, mining and manufacturing. Investment in agriculture declined, but the construction and financial industries rebounded slightly.
ANU professor Peter Drysdale, head of the CHIIA database project, reckoned that there were a multitude of factors behind the plunge.
As Chinese companies are increasingly focusing on developing markets and Beijing is trying to prevent capital outflows, in 2019, foreign direct investment from China fell by nearly 10 percent globally. The decline in Australia was even more severe, partly because of the end of the mining boom (which brought a lot of money from China).
Professor Drysdale added that the government’s new regulatory barriers have also pushed away Chinese investors. In recent years, China’s investments in Australia have attracted heated political debates. The Australian Federal Government has generally strengthened its review of foreign investment. Earlier this year, the Treasurer of Australia, Josh Frydenberg, introduced new restrictions to prevent overseas companies from targeting troubled Australian assets due to the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic.
The largest transaction that CHIIA recorded in 2019 was Mengniu Dairy’s acquisition of Bellamy, an Australian infant formula manufacturer, at 1.5 billion Australian dollars (US$1.1 billion). Last month, Frydenberg blocked Mengniu’s acquisition of the Australian company Lion Dairy and Drinks, claiming the deal was “contrary to their national interest.”
The political relationship between Australia and China has also turned increasingly hostile. The two countries have seen a series of issues, including foreign infiltration, Australian journalists harassed in China, cyber espionage, trade, Hong Kong issues and the COVID-19 outbreak. Professor Drysdale expected a further decline in Chinese investments in Australia in 2020.
Source: Australian Broadcasting Company Chinese, September 14, 2020