Australia’s relationship with its biggest trade partner, China, has seen better days.
The pair haven’t been seeing eye to eye since December, when then Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull linked Canberra’s anti-foreign interference laws to what he claimed were Chinese attempts “to influence the political process” in his country – a claim that prompted an angry Beijing to summon the Australian ambassador and marked a low point from which relations are yet to recover.
Just last month, Beijing’s ministry of commerce accused Canberra of interfering with “normal business activities” after it barred Chinese tech giant Huawei from involvement in Australia’s 5G network due to unspecified national security concerns. Soon afterwards, the Beijing-linked Global Times sounded the alarm about the rise of China “hawks” in the cabinet of Turnbull’s successor as prime minister, Scott Morrison, pointing to the move of minister Marise Payne – a frequent Beijing critic – from the defence to foreign affairs portfolio.
But if the relationship between Canberra and Beijing has seen better days, China’s ultra rich appear to be as enamoured with Australia as ever.
Australia was the world’s No 1 migration destination for millionaires last year, according to the 2018 Global Wealth Migration Review from AfrAsia Bank. More than 10,000 high-worth individuals migrated to Australia last year, mostly from China, India and the UK. And about 90 per cent of the visas Australia issued to high-worth investors – those who invest more than A$5 million (US$3.6 million) locally – were for Chinese nationals.
“They see beyond what is in the media,” Vera Ou-Young, the head of the Chinese Services Group at consulting giant Deloitte, told This Week in Asia.
When Stonington Mansion sold for A$52.5 million in Melbourne’s leafy southeast this year, it took the title for most expensive home to ever change hands in the city.