My, how things have changed! It wasn't long ago that, in deference to their political systems, Chinese and Russian investments in Western companies were unheard of.

But now, with Russian investments proliferating in such entities as steel companies in the U.S., and Chinese interests increasing in a variety of energy, mining, and resource companies, the picture has changed dramatically. Indeed, in the latest example of probably canny investing from China, an unnamed Chinese investment fund appears to have taken down a 1% stake in London-based BP (NYSE: BP).

The investment, which gives the fund a position in a company that is both a major global oil and gas player and the largest natural gas producer in the U.S., follows the accumulation of a similarly sized position by the State Administration of Foreign Exchange in France's Total (NYSE: TOT). The same state fund may be the new owner of the BP position.

Aluminum Corp. of China (NYSE: ACH), or Chinalco, recently teamed up with Alcoa (NYSE: AA) to acquire a position in mining company Rio Tinto (NYSE: RTP). Chinalco's action clearly was a response to Rio Tinto's being pursued by BHP Billiton (NYSE: BHP), since a combined BHP/Rio would have immense pricing power in the market for iron ore, for which Chinese steelmakers have a voracious appetite.

For my money, the Chinese have made a couple of wise Western big oil investments thus far. Total is a solid entity, and BP, which has been hit in the past few years by a host of misfortunes, including a tragic refinery explosion in Texas, a pipeline leak in Alaska, and a management shakeup at the top, appears to have potential as well.

In fact, while it doesn't yet sport the margins or returns of, say, an ExxonMobil (NYSE: XOM), its new CEO appears solid, it appears to have conquered most of its maladies, and it operates in many of the world's key oil and gas plays. At the same time, its 4.8% yield should put a twinkle in the eye of any Fool with a taste for big oil.

For related Foolishness:

Total is a Motley Fool Income Investor recommendation. Try the market-beating service free for 30 days.

Fool contributor David Lee Smith doesn't own shares in any of the companies mentioned. He does, however, welcome your questions or comments. The Fool has a disclosure policy.