Factbox: China-Australia ties span business, people

(BestGrowthStock) – A Chinese court convicted four employees of global miner Rio Tinto of taking bribes and stealing commercial secrets in a case closely watched by foreign investors and the huge domestic steel industry.

Australian citizen Stern Hu, Rio’s top China-based iron ore salesman until his arrest last year, was sentenced to 7 years in prison on charges of accepting bribes and 5 years on charges of stealing commercial secrets, while the other defendants were sentenced to between 7 and 14 years in prison.

Following are some facts about Australia-China relations:

* Australia established diplomatic ties with Beijing in 1972, adopting a “One China” policy that has underpinned relations since. Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd is a fluent Mandarin speaker and a former diplomat who served in Beijing.

* Former Australian Prime Minister Bob Hawke allowed 42,000 Chinese students to stay after the Tiananmen Square pro-democracy protests in 1989. China is Australia’s fourth-largest source of migrants and more than 100,000 Chinese students study in the country. Australia’s China-born population rose eightfold between 1981 and 2006, hitting 203,000.

* Bilateral ties have benefited from frequent high-level visits. Rudd visited China in April 2008 and again in August 2008 for the Olympics, following on from visits to Australia by President Hu Jintao and Premier Wen Jiabao.

* China is Australia’s biggest export market, with two-way trade worth $53 billion in 2008. Major Australian exports included iron ore, wool, copper ore and manganese. Canberra imports mostly clothing, communications equipment, computers, toys and sporting goods.

* Australia is China’s 15th biggest export market and 6th largest source of imports.

* Resource-hungry Chinese firms have been behind several tie-ups with Australia firms. In January, Australia approved China’s biggest-listed gold miner Zijin Mining Group’s $498 million bid for Australia’s Indophil Resources NL. But several Chinese bids for Australian firms have failed, most notably a $19.5 billion investment by metals firm Chinalco in Anglo-Australian miner Rio failed when Rio sought an alternative rights issue and joint venture with fellow mining giant BHP.

* Politically, an Australia-China Strategic Dialogue began in 2008, while Australia and China hold closed-door human rights talks annually, agreeing to keep any issues private.

* Australia has treated the trial of the Rio executives, including Australian citizen Stern Hu, as a consular matter, and has been careful not allow the case to impact on the wider bilateral and trade relationship, stressing the case has not hurt business ties.

* In a sign of ongoing business, China’s National Offshore Oil Corp (CNOOC) and BG Group last week signed Australia’s biggest gas supply deal, paving the way for BG’s $7.35 billion coal-seam gas project.

* China became Rio Tinto’s biggest single customer last year, making up a quarter of the group’s sales.

Investing Basics

(Reporting by Michael Perry and James Grubel; Editing by Ed Davies)

Factbox: China-Australia ties span business, people