Australia defends intelligence raids as spat with China escalates

Cornelia Mascio
Settembre 16, 2020

It was the third consecutive year that Chinese investment in Australia dropped since peaking at Aus$15.8 billion in 2016.

Shock figures from the Australian National University said Chinese investment had plunged from Aus$4.8 billion (£2.7 million) to just Aus$2.5 billion (£1.4 billion) a year ago.

The steep fall far outpaced a global decline in China's overseas ventures of 9.8 percent previous year, reflecting the bilateral political tensions.

Australia's Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton on Sunday defended the government's right to intelligence raids to prevent foreign interference, after China condemned searches on the homes of its journalists working in Australia.

That followed similar comments by state-run Xinhua News Agency, which said late on Friday that the actions taken by Australian authorities were "utterly appalling" and damaged relations between the two countries. Then last week, Australian authorities raised the homes of Chinese journalists, while Australia flew two journalists out of China after they were questioned by the state security ministry.

Australia's trade minister on Friday responded to the reports, saying that security agencies had acted in accordance with the law.

Relations between Australia and its top trading partner China have been deteriorating gradually over the recent years and have soured further this year after Canberra called for an investigation into the origins of the novel coronavirus, angering Beijing. In 2018, Canberra barred mobile technology maker Huawei Technologies Co Ltd from joining the rollout of the nation's 5G network.

Chinese investment fell sharply in mining, real estate and commercial property, manufacturing and agriculture, while there were modest gains in construction, education and finance, the report found.

China has imposed trade restrictions on products including barley and wine, prompting Australia to tighten national security tests for foreign investment.

Drysdale said it was important for Australia to consider how to reverse the "continuing downward trend" due to the key role of foreign investment in supporting economic growth and trade.

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