Australian attitudes cool towards China: poll

Australian attitudes cool towards China: poll

Australian attitudes to China are cooling, with 50 percent believing there is too much Chinese investment in Australia and almost half the population in favor of limiting China's influence, a poll suggested on Tuesday, Reuters reported.

Relations between China and Australia have been strained in recent months by political opposition to China's efforts to buy key stakes in Australian commodities and resources firms and the arrest of an Australian mining executive in China.

The fifth annual "Australia and the World" poll by Sydney-based Lowy Institute for International Policy found half of Australians believed the government had allowed too much Chinese investment, while 42 percent said it was about right.

When Australians were asked to rank their feelings toward China they registered a "lukewarm" 53 degrees, compared with 61 degrees in 2006, said the Lowy poll.

This compared with Australian feelings toward neighboring New Zealand at 83 degrees and toward the United States at 67.

The poll also found that 40 percent of Australians viewed the development of China as a world power as a critical threat to Australia's vital interests, up 15 points since 2006.

And while a majority of 57 percent said it was unlikely that China would become a military threat to Australia in the next 20 years, a sizeable 41 percent minority said it was likely.

Australia was one of the first countries to formally recognize China in 1972. China is now Australia's second-largest trading partner, with two-way trade last year worth $53 billion. But relations have been tense after Chinese state-owned metals firm Chinalco failed in a $19.5 billion bid for a stake in Rio and the arrest of four employees of Anglo-Australian miner Rio Tinto on suspicion of corporate espionage.

A decision by Australia's government in July to grant a visa for an exiled Uighur separatist further soured ties.

Some 91 percent of Australians said Prime Minister Kevin Rudd's government should undertake friendly cooperation and engagement with China, but 46 percent said the Australian government should actively work to limit China's power.

Rudd, a Chinese-speaking former diplomat, has said bilateral ties will remain strong despite strains.

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