Most Australians mistakenly think China is largest source of foreign investment, poll finds

Just one in six Australians can correctly nominate the United States as the largest source of foreign investment, a new poll suggests, at a time when public debate has focused heavily on China’s economic reach.

The finding follows fresh warnings from Australian exporters that it would be “very costly” for the country to turn its back on China as a key export market despite the current turbulence in the relationship.

The University of Sydney’s United States Studies Centre said in a report, released on Thursday, that a poll of 1,054 Australians revealed “good public understanding of Australia’s trade relationships but widespread ignorance about international investment”.

The survey, conducted for the centre by YouGov, showed 81% of respondents correctly ranked China as Australia’s largest overall trading partner when presented with four leading options.

But when asked which of four countries was Australia’s largest source of international investment, only 17% correctly nominated the US, while the vast majority – 71% – thought China was top of those rankings too.

Just 8% of those surveyed correctly placed China as being below the US, the United Kingdom and Japan. The survey question had explained that international investments included buying land, property, shares and financial instruments.

“While there have been some high profile and controversial Chinese investments in Australia, the flow of Chinese investment in Australia has never exceeded that from the United States,” stated the report entitled Enduring Partners: the US-Australia investment relationship.