After Failed Business Deals Earlier In The Year, Chinese Investment In Australia Is Back In A Big Way
The Australian reports this week that Australia remains a popular destination for Chinese investments, even after the ill-fated Chinalco-Rio Tinto negotiations earlier this year and China’s subsequent incarceration of Rio executive Stern Hu, an Australian national, along with three of his Chinese colleagues:
[T]he core complementary elements that have increasingly driven the economies together — Australia’s need for capital and for markets, China’s need for inputs for its industrial machine, and for international enmeshment — have not changed.
Paul Glasson, Shanghai-based managing director of Sigiriya Capital, a leading figure in putting together deals between Chinese and Australian companies, says: “The core proposition between Australia and China remains the same. The bottom line demand and desire to supply resources has not changed.”
This became palpable when Resources Minister Martin Ferguson flew to Beijing to initial on August 18 the deal through which state-owned giant PetroChina agreed to buy $50bn worth of gas from the Gorgon field off Western Australia.
With scant notice, he secured a brief but crucial meeting with the central player in China’s zou chu qu — go global — campaign, the chairman of the immensely powerful National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC), Zhang Ping.
The article goes on to cite rosy figures that indicate that China-Australia trade ties remain strong despite occasional hiccups, and that continued investment will only serve to pull the two economies even closer together. However, looking only at economic figures only illustrates part of the immensely complex puzzle that is China-Australian business relations.
One of the major results of these two countries’ cooperation has been a deepening of cultural ties — mainly in the arts, but also in areas like wine and tourism. As we’ve written before, contemporary Chinese art has increased in popularity in Australia rather quickly — as the new White Rabbit Contemporary Chinese Art Museum in Sydney would attest — and strong art/business deals have become the norm over the last 20 years. As we wrote earlier this year, “art diplomacy” is bucking the trend of contentious China-Australia business deals and providing a way for the two countries (and their art collectors) to become more accustomed to one another:
The “Midway” exhibition in China and the upcoming show of Contemporary Chinese Art in Melbourneare two good examples of how art exchanges are becoming a more attractive form of cultural diplomacy, one that could, over time, be a potent tool for greater dialogue and deeper Sino-Australian ties. Already, a number of business-minded journalists in Australia are calling for the country to open up, not only culturally but economically, to its Asian neighbor.
Looking back at art as a way to link these two countries together, and the potential that cultural exchange has for decreasing misunderstandings on both sides — not to mention the investment possibilities for both sides in purchasing contemporary pieces (a field we talk about often) — it looks like Australia is the perfect venue for more Chinese art exhibitions. With ethnic Chinese making up about 4% of Australia’s population, and existing government initiatives like the Australia China Cultural Exchange Center already working to promote better ties, it looks like just a matter of time until political, business, and cultural decision-makers both in China and Australia start to see the potential for cooperative exchange. While changing public perceptions and killing xenophobia sounds like a daunting task (and it is, in some ways), the success of artistic exhibitions in Sydney and Beijing alike are a positive sign that artwork diplomacy could soon join ping pong diplomacy and orchestra diplomacy in the annals of brilliant international relations decisions.