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China now Australia's top source of immigrants

Sydney harbour - 21 April 2009
Australia remains attractive to Chinese migrants

China has overtaken the UK and New Zealand as Australia's biggest source of immigrants, official figures reveal.

The latest government figures show a record 6,350 people arrived from China in the four months to October.

China's new primacy was due largely to a fall in migration from the UK and New Zealand, as people there opt to hold on to jobs instead of moving to Australia.

Arrivals from the UK were down 28% to 5,800 and the number from New Zealand was down 47% to 4,740.

Diplomatic spats

British migration has also been affected by a cut in the number of skilled workers Australia allows to settle in the country.

Chinese migration, however, is dominated by family reunions and grew by 15% over the same period last year.

New Zealanders do not require visas to migrate to Australia and so the drop in migration from there is a direct response to economic conditions, demographer Graeme Hugo told the Sydney Morning Herald.

The upsurge in Chinese migration comes despite a series of spats this year between Beijing and Canberra.

Anglo-Australian mining company Rio Tinto spurned a bid from Chinese state-owned firm Chinalco in favour of an offer from another Anglo-Australian company - BHP Billiton.

Rio Tinto executive Stern Hu and three Chinese staff were arrested in China on suspicion of industrial espionage.

Deepening the diplomatic chill, Australia allowed high-profile Uighur activist Rebiya Kadeer to visit in August.

Since then, both sides have worked to improve ties. A survey of Chinese attitudes to Australia released earlier this month indicated that a majority of respondents agreed Australia has attractive values and a good political system.



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