Chinese migrants unfairly blamed for Australia’s property shutouts

By Ni Yao Source:Global Times Published: 2015-6-16 20:13:01

Illustration: Liu Rui/GT

The Chinese community in Australia seems to be facing with a crisis. There is a rising xenophobia against Chinese in the mainstream English-speaking community. Media speculation has also added fuel to the fire.

Since the beginning of last year, nearly all mainstream media in Australia, notably Melbourne, have started to focus on coverage of Chinese entering local property market. They accused the Chinese of being behind the skyrocketing housing prices that led to young Australians being unable to afford houses and forced property taxes up.

This year, housing prices have continued to rise at an overwhelming speed, especially in Sydney. The Daily Telegraph last week reported that in the city's inner northwest where most Chinese-Australians gather, there is now a billboard only in Chinese advertising property, hoping to exclusively appeal to eager Chinese buyers.

As a Chinese migrant living in Sydney, the state capital of New South Wales, for many years, I have witnessed the surging housing prices and flocks of Chinese coming to buy properties here. The billboard has been there for almost a year and is nothing new to me or any other local. That area used to be a landfill where the whites even do not spare a glance for. But due to the large number of migrants from China, South Korea and the Middle East, the area has been developed into a very modern community. It is more than normal to have billboards written in Chinese in places where most Chinese gather.

It's certainly not pleasant to live in a society where anti-Chinese sentiments are growing, and it is worth looking into the deeper reasons behind the flourishing Australian property market.

In March, Luke Foley, leader of the opposition Labor Party in the Parliament of New South Wales, appealed to xenophobia to oppose Premier Mike Baird's proposals of electricity privatization. He suspected new owners might be "an arm of the Communist Party of China."

Both Labor and the Liberal Party to which Baird belongs often bring up the specter of the "China threat" to score political points. The thing that matters to us Chinese Australians is that if, for instance, the electricity network is sold to a Chinese firm or owner and the electricity fee rises due to a lack of government supervision, a large number of locals in New South Wales will vent their anger on innocent Chinese migrants.

Chinese used to be seen as "industrious" and "honest," but these stereotypes have been replaced by "extravagant" and "wealthy." Due to some high-profile individuals' bold and excessive investment, together with China's rising global status, China has become the chief scapegoat for Australia's economic slump and various internal conflicts.

In May, a Credit Suisse report pointed out that Chinese bought 23 percent of new houses in New South Wales. Actually, the foreign investment laws in Australia encourage foreign investors to buy new houses because the government aims to push forward city construction with overseas financing.

However, Australians began to complain that new migrants led to the unbearable rise of housing prices. Indeed, new migrants have, but Chinese migrants make up only one eighth of the entire migrant population, according to Australian immigration office statistics.

The affordability of housing prices has become a severe problem, but the real reasons behind are the limited space of land, development cost and the historically low favorable interest rates and policies to property investors, and none of these has any direct link to China or Chinese migrants.

In addition, local governments have come to depend on the revenue from property taxes and so court new hot money from overseas on the one hand while decrying the effects on ordinary people on the other.

The grievous economic downturn and the dependency of the economy on a single pillar is a dilemma facing not only New South Wales and Victoria but also the entire Australia. But people always tend to persuade themselves to believe what they want to believe, ignoring bitter facts.

The author is a Chinese migrant living in Sydney, Australia.

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