RMIT researchers have explored how Chinese firms engage in Australian communities in a study funded by the Australia-China Council.
As part of the research, Dr Charlie Huang and Dr Warren Staples from the School of Management and the Centre for People, Organisation and Work conducted more than 50 interviews with managers of Chinese companies, community group leaders and government officials.
The pair also travelled on two field trips to remote regions of Australia, meeting with community leaders in Western Australia's mid-west and north-west Tasmania.
"Most Australians are aware that the growth of the Chinese economy and Chinese Outward Foreign Direct Investment in Australia has benefited our economy," Dr Huang said.
"While the general public appreciate that Chinese investment has helped moderate the impact of the global financial crisis on Australia, there is little known about the social benefit derived from this investment in Australia."
The researchers recently presented their report, Community engagement by Chinese firms in Australia: practices and benefits, to more than 140 industry participants and academics in Melbourne and Perth.
Both events included an industry panel session with representatives from the Australia China Business Council, Huawei, MMG Ltd and Sinosteel Midwest Corporation.
The presentations provided in-depth and qualitative insights into the focus and approaches of community engagement adopted by Chinese firms in Australia, and the benefits derived by local communities.
"The focus of engagement ranges from art, sport, health and wellbeing initiatives to education, infrastructure building and community development," Dr Huang said.
Dr Staples said the research undertaken on Chinese firms in Australia was overwhelmingly positive.
"Our research uncovered some excellent examples of good corporate citizenship by Chinese firms," he said.
"The mining industry was particularly strong, frequently featuring shared goals, joint decision-making and community funds that empower local communities."
The research outlines several key challenges for Chinese firms to improve their community engagement practices.In attempting to improve the community engagement practices by Chinese firms, the research outlines several key challenges for Chinese firms to better engage community.
These include resourcing community engagement, engaging in two way communications, involving a broad mix of employees, participating in social networks and events, and developing internal strategy and management systems for community engagement.
Over the next month, Dr Huang and Dr Staples will hold seminars in Sydney and Brisbane to disseminate their research findings.
The seminars have been organised in conjunction with the Australia China Business Council.
"The response from the Australian business community to this project has been overwhelming and many Australians are pleased that we have attempted to demystify some of the stigma around Chinese investment," Dr Huang said.
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