research / Research reports

Myth-busting Chinese corporations in Australia

March 02 2017

Among policymakers, media and the broader public, confusion reigns supreme when it comes to Chinese corporations. State-owned enterprises (SOEs) are assumed to be blindly following Chinese Communist Party (CCP) or security service orders with little concern for their own commercial interests. And private Chinese firms are conflated with SOEs and viewed as pawns in the CCP’s regional expansion strategy, despite the enormous growth of the Chinese private sector over the past two decades. Lurking behind these judgments is a biased frame of reference that views Chinese investors primarily as a threat, especially when compared to foreign investors from Australia’s traditional allies. This bias exacerbates regional tensions that are already strained due to US-Chinese rivalry.

This paper aims to challenge these myths and biases through case studies of major private and state-controlled Chinese corporations in Australia. Subjects include infrastructure/resources firms (Chinalco, Landbridge Group, Fosun Group) real estate firms (Wanda Group) and hi-tech innovators (Huawei Technologies).

The paper concludes that welcoming private Chinese investment into Australia in a controlled way will do more than provide much-needed cash to our state governments. It will also boost the reputation of private enterprises in China, assisting progressive Chinese policymakers to push through further privatization of SOEs and allowing a greater role for the market in the commanding heights of the Chinese economy.  

Author: Dr Colin Hawes is Associate Professor and Director of Courses in the Law Faculty at the University of Technology Sydney. Dr Hawes studied Chinese at Durham University, UK, and in Beijing and Wuhan, China. He holds a PhD in Asian Studies and an LLB from the University of British Columbia (UBC) in Vancouver. He practised law in Vancouver focusing on Asia-related cases before joining the UTS Law Faculty in 2005.

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