It is hard to credit how swiftly Australia’s attitude towards Chinese investment has hardened since the warm embrace of 2014 and early 2015. In quick succession, the Abbott government sealed the free trade agreement, China’s President Xi Jinping addressed Australia’s parliament, and the government signed up as a founding member of China’s regional development initiative, the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank.
“Truly, no Chinese leader has ever been anything like such a good friend to Australia,” the then prime minister, Tony Abbott, said in November 2014, welcoming Xi to Canberra and also drawing attention to his numerous Australian visits to the country. And the strength of the relationship, Abbott said, was sealed not by Australia’s role as a primary supplier of the resources building the Chinese nation, but by the flow of investment. “We trade with people when we need them, but we invest with people when we trust them. A relationship might begin with commerce, but it rarely ends there once trust has been established, as I believe it has between Australia and China,” he said.