China Calls Australia ‘Protectionist’ for Blocking Ausgrid Bid

China has called Australia "protectionist" for blocking a bid for its largest electricity grid from a Chinese suitor, underscoring the nation’s frustration at recent thwarted investments.

Australia’s decision to block bids for Ausgrid from State Grid Corp. of China last week shows an “obvious protectionist” stance and will “severely hurt” incentives for Chinese companies to invest there, Ministry of Commerce spokesman Shen Danyang said at a briefing Wednesday. The government hopes Australia will create a “fairer, better and more transparent” investment environment for Chinese companies, Shen said.

The world’s second-largest economy’s foreign investment ambitions have faced recent opposition in the U.S., Canada and Europe. The U.K. government has postponed approval to build a nuclear-power facility that was to be partly funded by China General Nuclear Power Corp.

Australia rejected bids for Ausgrid from State Grid and Hong Kong billionaire Li Ka-shing amid growing opposition in Australia to selling infrastructure assets to overseas investors. Australia also blocked the sale of its largest cattle rancher to a Chinese-led group earlier this year.

China’s official Xinhua News Agency warned against a “dangerous mindset of China-phobia” after the soured Ausgrid deal. It said paranoia over Chinese investment could set back efforts to stimulate global growth.

China is Australia’s biggest export partner, and the two countries sealed a free-trade agreement last year.

— With assistance by Miao Han

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