China-Australia

Even though it lies more than 6,000km away, Western Australia is already feeling the shift in the Chinese economy away from investment in heavy industry towards consumption.

The state accounts, which accounts for half China’s annual imports of iron ore, senses a change in favour of other commodities, including natural gas and agricultural products. As Western Australia’s premier Colin Barnett said during a visit to Beijing: “Iron ore maybe has had its golden days.”

The state, which has its own trade offices in China to manage bilateral trade worth more than A$58bn annually, is focusing on diversification. 

Chinese investment in Australia raises concerns, not least in agriculture: there are few inward investments anywhere that generate as much controversy as foreigners buying control of land.

But these worries haven’t stopped the authorities in Western Australia from going ahead with a US$728m Chinese-backed project to develop a sugar industry – even though there was a big local bidder in the shape of the Australian Agricultural Company, with plans to grow cotton. It’s easy to see why Perth prefers the Chinese proposal – 350 jobs in the construction phase and 400 in production afterwards. 

Electric cars may be struggling to build sales momentum, but that’s not stopping Chengdu Tianqi Industry from making a bold bet that demand for lithium-powered products can only go in one direction – up.

The Chinese battery maker on Monday gatecrashed US chemical maker Rockwood Holding’s bid for Perth-based miner Talison Lithium with a C$806m ($803.3m) takeover offer. The bid, at C$7.15 a share, represents a 10 per cent premium to Rockwood’s C$724m (or C$6.50 a share) bid.