The study, based on a survey of 175 entrepreneurs in Australia and China and in-depth case studies of 12 individuals, explores the strategies and key factors of success within seven crucial business networks linking Australia and China.
“We knew very little about these entrepreneur groups, but our research shows they have more similarities than differences,” said study co-author Dr Wei Li from the University of Sydney Business School.
“Both Chinese Australian entrepreneurs and Australian entrepreneurs in China have similar age, education levels, work experiences, and global mindsets, reflecting the evolving business and trade partnerships between Australia and China.”
These entrepreneurs, according to Dr Li, are not only ambitious but also adept at leveraging premium suppliers from both countries to gain a competitive advantage in local and global markets.
“They rarely rely on low-cost strategies. Instead, their businesses are diverse, with some becoming pivotal in driving the expansion of their ecosystems, especially in sectors like IT and agriculture.
Both groups are leveraging local business links, ethnic ties, and cross-border connections to become integral parts of various business networks and digital ecosystems.
“This strategic positioning allows them to stay competitive amidst global economic uncertainty. Yet, for Australian businesses, the potential value of these entrepreneurial ecosystems remains largely unrecognised,” said Dr Li.
Despite these striking similarities, the study found key differences between the groups. One is the timing or manner of their move overseas, with most Australians moving to China for work, while most Chinese entrepreneurs came to Australia as university students.
Another difference is their marketing approach. Chinese Australian entrepreneurs showed a greater reliance on social media and communication platforms.
Both groups, however, share a global mindset that embraces diversity and has an open perspective towards different cultures, traditions, and ways of life.
Helen Zhi Dent, Partner, China Business Practice, KPMG Australia said: “Entrepreneurship is a critical factor in building economic ties between Australia and China, and the positive impacts these businesses are having on their communities and industries in both countries deserves to be recognised.
Access to ecosystems and networks is seen as the ‘superpower’ for both Chinese Australian entrepreneurs and Australian entrepreneurs in China.
"With both groups acknowledging that barriers to new partnerships do exist, businesses and entrepreneurs should be prepared to invest more time and resources to develop strong relationships and co-operation.”
The study highlights the importance of understanding the unique strategies of these entrepreneur groups, encouraging Australian businesses to recognise and leverage these entrepreneurial ecosystems for better engagement and success in China and other Asian markets.
Peter Cai, CEO of the National Foundation for Australia-China Relations said: “Building understanding and exchange between Australia and China is central to the Foundation’s mission. This research sheds light on the shared potential of entrepreneur ecosystems in Australia and China, highlighting the value they can bring to both countries.”
The report also investigates the economic interdependence between Australia and China, using new measures to focus on indirect linkages across key industries developed by the University of Sydney Business School and New York University Abu Dhabi.
The findings show that China and Australia are closely interlinked and suggest that continuous market expansion and globalisation will benefit the economies of both countries.
This report was produced by authors and contributors from The University of Sydney Business School, KPMG Australia and AustCham Shanghai.
The authors acknowledge funding support from the National Foundation for Australia China Relations; research assistance from Xi Nan and Wivinia Kong, funded by the National Foundation for Australia China Relations; and the generous support and assistance from key personnel and chambers in Australia and China.
The authors declare no conflict of interest.