Here's why China is buying up assets in Australia

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World Economy

Here's why China is buying up assets in Australia

Chinese investors are buying up assets in Australia from housing to ports to agriculture.

One area where that trend is particular noticeable: Chinese investment in Australia's agricultural sector went from $300 million to more than $1 billion over the past year.

Part of what's driving that trend is Chinese investors looking to Australia as fertile ground to produce goods that they'll sell back in China. There's heavy demand from China's booming middle class for Australian-produced fruits, meats, wine, dairy and minerals.

In fact, those shoppers have grown to trust "Made in Australia" on the whole. After outbreaks in China from tainted infant formula, Australian-produced formula has been a market winner for Chinese consumers.

China's wealthy impact Australian housing

Home prices in Sydney are up 98 percent since the global financial crisis, and in Melbourne they're up 84 percent, according CoreLogic, a data, information, analytics and services provider in Australia.

Concurrent with rising prices is increased Chinese activity in the market. Last year, was the biggest year for Chinese investment in Australian residential real estate, according to Juwai.com, an international property website.

In New South Wales, the Australian state in which Sydney is located, foreign buyers (87 percent of whom were Chinese) acquired a quarter of new property supply, according to a recent report by Credit Suisse.

Not everyone is happy about the trend

Governments are working to slow the movement of Chinese money into Australian assets.

Australia has lowered incentives for foreign buyers, and the state of New South Wales doubled taxes on foreign buyers to 8 percent of the purchase price. For its part, China's government has recently implemented restrictions on the outflow of cash from the mainland.

"China's capital controls have worked," Jane Lu, head of Australia for Juwai said. "Look at China's huge foreign reserves, at the strong yuan, and at the reduced the flow of money out of the country."

In 2017, Juwai is seeing an average Chinese property buying inquiry price of about $350,000 in Australia, according to Lu. That's about $40,000 lower than last year, she said.

Yet, according to Credit Suisse, demand is still high and not expected to slow. One of the reasons is China's increasingly wealthy population.

In 2011, the combined wealth of all of China's millionaires was nearly equal to the value of Australia's total housing stock. Today, however, China's wealthy are worth twice as much as the housing stock.

Credit Suisse forecasts combined wealth of the China's elite will continue to grow at a faster pace.