"Despite what we may at times read, there is no evidence that China is buying up the family farm" in Australia, Dennis Richardson, the secretary of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, told a seminar on China's economy at the Australian National University.
That said, Australia and China are working on the first joint study on strengthening agricultural investment and technical cooperation to enhance food security, which will show how the two countries can work together to boost farm output, he said, reading a speech prepared for Trade Minister Craig Emerson.
The study isn't a proposal for buying up the farm, importing overseas labour and dedicating production to Chinese consumption. Rather, the aim is to tap into patient Chinese capital to create jobs and revitalise rural communities with Chinese investment to help Australia produce more food for the international market at world prices.
Australia already exports two-thirds of its farm production and is an important supplier to the global trade in wheat, beef, sheep meat, sugar, wool and cotton.
"Chinese investment in Australia beyond farms has also been a focus of public debate," Mr Richardson said. "Far from there being too much Chinese investment in Australia, there isn't enough."
China has huge capital reserves and the government has told companies to go out and look for investment opportunities to invest, he said, adding that Australia has always needed foreign capital to develop.
Despite some Chinese investors from time to time raising concerns about Foreign Investment Review Board screening processes, or about high labour costs, Australia already attracts more direct Chinese investment than the US, he said.
According to the 2011 China Statistical Yearbook, Chinese direct investment in the US totalled $5 billion at the end of 2010, compared with $8 billion in Australia, he said.