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Relations between Beijing and Canberra nosedived after the Australian Government called for an independent investigation into the origins of Covid-19, sparking fears China would come to blows with the west. In response China has banned or placed restrictions on a number of Australian products.
Last year Australia provided China with 57 percent of its thermal coal imports, which are used to run power stations.
However, last month Beijing blocked Australian coal imports worth more than $1.1bn (£0.81bn).
Much of this is sitting in 80 cargo ships which are currently situated off the Chinese coast.
According to the South China Morning Post (SCMP) coal prices in China have exploded from 500 yuan (£56.46) per tonne last month to 760 yuan (£85.82) this week.
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As a result, there are reports of widespread power shortages in a number of Chinese provinces.
According to the Daily Mail the Government of Zhejiang province have banned the use of heating in offices unless the temperature falls below 3C.
Between December 13 and 30 many factories in the province have been ordered to shut down for one or two days for every two days they are operational.
In Wenzhou, a city of over nine million in Zhejiang, restaurants have been told they can only provide air conditioning for customers and not staff.
The Mail also reports in Shanghai, one of China’s economic capitals, office blocks and shopping centres have been ordered to turn off non-essential lights and air conditioning.
This means the famous Shanghai light and laser show, which taken place by the Huangpu River, is no longer operating.
According to The Australian power cuts have also been reported in Hunan province, which has a population of 67 million.
Speaking to the paper a Chinese energy insider said: “You cannot pretend that bad relations between China and Australia haven’t contributed to this situation.”
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Australian prime minister Scott Morrison has accused China of violating World Trade Organisation rules and argued both countries are losing out in the present situation.
Officially the Chinese foreign ministry is neither confirming nor denying the ban is in place.
The trade restrictions were blamed directly for the crisis by the Chinese Ordos Coal Trading Centre.
In documents acquired by the SCMP it states: “Right now, there are more than 80 Australian cargo ships, carrying 8.8 million tonnes of coal.
“But under the current circumstances, in the short term, they will not be allowing in Australian coal, but rather will depend on [supply] from the domestic market.”
China has been severely restricting Australian trade since Mr Morrison called for an independent investigation into the origins of the coronavirus pandemic earlier this year.
Heavy restrictions have already been placed on the export of Australian wine, barley and timber to China.
Typically, Australia exports $14bn (£10.3bn) worth of coal to China each year.
This is the country’s second biggest export industry.
Beijing is also angry at Canberra for speaking out over human rights, including a new security law China has imposed on the formerly autonomous city of Hong Kong.
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