The Great Wall of China

In the Australian, John Garmaut reports on the climate for Australian businesses in China:

Since the 1990s, the Australian export trade to China has risen to stratospheric heights but the investment dollars have never followed. Since early last year, China has been the lead buyer of Australian exports, the lead supplier of Australian imports and the lead supplier of foreign direct investment into Australia (at least on some measures, including by the Heritage Foundation in the US). But less than 1 per cent of Australian foreign direct investment has been heading to China.

Australian investments in China look almost trivial compared with the seemingly endless flow of multibillion-dollar Chinese resource investment deals coming the other way.

David Olsen, chairman of a newly proactive China-Australia Chamber of Commerce, says Australian investors might be small and relatively few, but they are learning.

"Australia faces considerable formal barriers to investment into China and the senior executives of a number of Australian companies have found that the challenge of operating in a culturally and politically very different country challenging," says Olsen.

"[But] we are seeing Australian companies adopting a more sophisticated and realistic approach to investment strategies," says Olsen, who heads the China operations of law firm Mallesons.

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