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Countries pulling out stops to woo wealthy Chinese

Chinese tourists enjoy the sands of Bondi Beach.
The Sydney Morning Herald | Fairfax Media |Getty Images
Chinese tourists enjoy the sands of Bondi Beach.

Australia and Japan have recently taken steps to lure wealthy Chinese, in an effort to encourage investment and strengthen ties with the world's number two economy.

The Australian government has announced plans to alter its immigration rules to allow applicants who invest at least A$15 million ($13 million) in Australian assets to be eligible for permanent residency after one year, in what will be known as a 'premium investment visa,' the BBC reported on Tuesday. The new visa will be introduced on 1 July next year.

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"This move is a clear sign that the Australian government is actively seeking to encourage foreign investment. And the government clearly recognizes the opportunities that greater ties to Asia present to Australia," said Paul Bloxham, chief economist at HSBC.

A similar program has been in operation since 2012 - the 'significant investor visa' - making those who invest A$5 million ($4.6 million) over four years open to permanent residency - and 90 percent of the successful applicants have been Chinese so far. The program has generated A$2.18 billion since it was implemented, according to the BBC.

Worry for Australian property?

The rule changes in Australia, however, could cause some controversy, considering that Chinese investors have been blamed for driving up house prices in the country, and stoking fears of a bubble.

Australian property is a popular investment for Asian investors, and just under 10 percent of affluent Chinese are invested in the sector, an HSBC report published earlier this year found.

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"It's [the rule change] certainly aimed at wealthy Asian and particularly Chinese investors. It could mean more money coming into the property market, which in Sydney in particular, and to a lesser degree Melbourne, is already quite frothy, and will make it harder for the Reserve Bank to do its job of cooling it down a little," said Shane Oliver, chief investment strategist at AMP Capital.

Sydney and Melbourne's property markets rose 16 and 11 percent respectively in the three months to August, according to RP data, and the nation's central bank has recently voiced concerns that the sector looks 'unbalanced.'

But other analysts told CNBC they were not concerned the introduction of the 'premium investor visa' would add to the risk of a bubble forming in Australia's property market.

"The move will support more foreign investment in the property market but really most likely at the very top end where it's already a global market," said HSBC's Bloxham.

"This is less of a worry for the overall property sector because those investors don't tend to borrow from Australian banks for a start, so it's not a risk for financial stability. And it's a very specific market, it's not even the top 1 percent, it's more likely the top 0.5 or 0.2 percent," he said.

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Japan wants the Chinese too

Other countries are also taking steps to lure in more wealthy Chinese, including Japan, which is considering changing its visa rules to make encourage more Chinese tourists to travel there.

At present, Chinese tourists entering on multiple-entry visas are required to spend at least one night in Okinawa Prefecture or in Iwate, Miyaki or Fukushima prefectures, areas severely damaged by the 2011 earthquake and tsunami. But the ministry is considering removing this rule to try to generate more revenue and strengthen China-Japan ties, the Japan Times reported on Sunday.

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Tourists entering Japan on a multiple visa are normally of the wealthier kind, as they are required to demonstrate sufficient economic resources before obtaining the visa.

According to a study from Barclays and Ledbury Research in September, 47 percent of Chinese millionaires plan to emigrate in the next five years, the highest rate of planned millionaire flight in the world.