China to back down on Australian coal ban

China backs down to Anthony Albanese as the communist superpower prepares to lift its disastrous ban on Aussie coal

  • China appears set to end its disastrous ban on Australian coal imports
  • Communist nation blocked commodity as response to Covid inquiry calls 
  • Result saw Beijing’s costs rise and tens of millions shiver through blackouts
  • Stock prices of Australian mining companies skyrocketed on Thursday
  • Rumours suggest China could end the embargo as soon as August 

China appears set to end its disastrous ban on Australian coal with share market traders pricing in an imminent change in policy. 

Beijing blocked the commodity in November, 2020, to punish Canberra for suggesting an international inquiry should be held into the origins of the Covid-19 pandemic which began in Wuhan.

The Chinese campaign of economic coercion – which also saw similar bans on key export sectors like barley, wine, cotton, seafood, timbre and copper – was meant to punish Australia for speaking out.

But the economic threat spectacularly back-fired on the authoritarian nation leaving China with widespread blackouts – as it generates more than half of its electricity through coal.

Australian coal mining companies saw significant jumps in stock prices on Thursday – with rumours swirling the Communist nation could end its ban as soon as August.

Financial firm Goldman Sachs estimated about 44 per cent of industrial activity was affected by power shortages, largely caused by their juvenile ban of Australian coal

Financial firm Goldman Sachs estimated about 44 per cent of industrial activity was affected by power shortages, largely caused by their juvenile ban of Australian coal 

Anthony Albanese is prioritising talks with China at the beginning of his prime ministership

China and Australia's relationship is at its worst in history but both sides appear motivated to heal it

Anthony Albanese and Xi Jinping will attempt to have more cordial relations than Scott Morrison – with a conclusion to the coal ban set to be the first olive branch

Queensland mining giant New Hope saw a massive 7 per cent increase, while Whitehaven and South32 jumped 3.9 per cent and 2.6 per cent respectively.

China was Australia’s largest customer prior to the coal ban, buying more than 30 megatons a year – worth $13.7billion in 2019.

Primarily they were purchasing metallurgic coal, used for manufacturing steel, of which China is the world’s largest provider accounting for 57 per cent of the globe’s stock.

Australia meanwhile are responsible for 58 per cent of metallurgic coal exports – meaning the stalemate had a significant economic impact on both nations.

The ban, meant to cripple Australia’s finances, instead saw tens of millions of Chinese suffering consistent blackouts in frigid winter months.

Beijing were then forced to look to countries including Japan to buy Australian coal second hand, sending costs through the roof.

They had been paying around $590 per million tonnes of coal through the ban – compared to the $370million they were paying prior to the embargo. 

Cities in the Hunan, Jianggix and Zhejiang provinces have been plunged into darkness as a result of the Chinese Communist Party's blockage of Australian coal

Cities in the Hunan, Jianggix and Zhejiang provinces have been plunged into darkness as a result of the Chinese Communist Party’s blockage of Australian coal

Foreign Minister Penny Wong met with her counterpart Wang Yi in Bali last week, where it’s believed the two discussed the coal ban among other key topics.

‘I welcome our discussion of issues of concern between our two countries as well as our discussion on the prosperity, security and stability of the region,’ Ms Wong said after the G20 Summit meeting.

‘We spoke frankly and we listened carefully to each other’s priorities and concerns. As you would expect, I raised a number of issues in relation to bilateral, regional and consular issues.’

The impact appears almost immediate, with coal company stock prices signalling an impending conclusion to the standoff and an embarrassing backflip from the communist superpower.

Foregin Minister Penny Wong met with her counterpart Wang Yi in Bali last week, where it's believed the two discussed the coal ban

Foregin Minister Penny Wong met with her counterpart Wang Yi in Bali last week, where it’s believed the two discussed the coal ban

Mr Wang admitted the ban came into place as a direct response to the political aggression shown by former Prime Minister Scott Morrison, but hinted tensions may between the Pacific powers may be cooling. 

‘The root cause of the difficulties in bilateral relations over the past few years was the former Australian government’s insisting on regarding China as a rival or even a threat, allowing its words and deeds being irresponsible against China,’ he said.

‘It is hoped that the Australian side will seize the current opportunity and take concrete actions to reshape its correct understanding of China, reduce negative assets and accumulate positive energy for the improvement of China-Australia relations.’

How China’s feud with Australia has escalated over the past three years

2019: Australian intelligence services conclude that China was responsible for a cyber-attack on Australia’s parliament and three largest political parties in the run-up to a May election.

April 2020: Australian PM Scott Morrison begins canvassing his fellow world leaders for an inquiry into the origins of the coronavirus pandemic. Britain and France are initially reluctant but more than 100 countries eventually back an investigation. 

April 15: Morrison is one of the few leaders to voice sympathy with Donald Trump’s criticisms of the World Health Organization, which the US president accuses of bias towards China. 

April 21: China’s embassy accuses Australian foreign minister Peter Dutton of ‘ignorance and bigotry’ and ‘parroting what those Americans have asserted’ after he called for China to be more transparent about the outbreak.  

April 23: Australia’s agriculture minister David Littleproud calls for G20 nations to campaign against the ‘wet markets’ which are common in China and linked to the earliest coronavirus cases.  

April 26: Chinese ambassador Cheng Jingye hints at a boycott of Australian wine and beef and says tourists and students might avoid Australia ‘while it’s not so friendly to China’. Canberra dismisses the threat and warns Beijing against ‘economic coercion’. 

May 11: China suspends beef imports from four of Australia’s largest meat processors. These account for more than a third of Australia’s $1.1billion beef exports to China. 

May 18: The World Health Organization backs a partial investigation into the pandemic, but China says it is a ‘joke’ for Australia to claim credit. The same day, China imposes an 80 per cent tariff on Australian barley. Australia says it may challenge this at the WTO. 

May 21: China announces new rules for iron ore imports which could allow Australian imports – usually worth $41billion per year – to be singled out for extra bureaucratic checks. 

June 5: Beijing warns tourists against travelling to Australia, alleging racism and violence against the Chinese in connection with Covid-19.  

June 9: China’s Ministry of Education warns students to think carefully about studying in Australia, similarly citing alleged racist incidents.   

June 19: Australia says it is under cyber-attack from a foreign state which government sources say is believed to be China. The attack has been targeting industry, schools, hospitals and government officials, Morrison says.

July 9: Australia suspends extradition treaty with Hong Kong and offers to extend the visas of 10,000 Hong Kongers who are already in Australia over China’s national security law which effectively bans protest.

August 18: China launches 12-month anti-dumping investigation into wines imported from Australia in a major threat to the $6billion industry. 

August 26: Prime Minster Scott Morrison announces he will legislate to stop states and territories signing deals with foreign powers that go against Australia’s foreign policy. Analysts said it is aimed at China.

October 13: Trade Minister Simon Birmingham says he’s investigating reports that Chinese customs officials have informally told state-owned steelmakers and power plants to stop Aussie coal, leaving it in ships off-shore.

November 2: Agriculture Minister David Littleproud reveals China is holding up Aussie lobster imports by checking them for minerals.

November 3: Barley, sugar, red wine, logs, coal, lobster and copper imports from Australia unofficially banned under a directive from the government, according to reports.

November 18: China releases bizarre dossier of 14 grievances with Australia. 

November 27: Australian coal exports to China have dropped 96 per cent in the first three weeks of November as 82 ships laden with 8.8million tonnes of coal are left floating off Chinese ports where they have been denied entry. 

November 28: Beijing imposed a 212 per cent tariff on Australia’s $1.2 billion wine exports, claiming they were being ‘dumped’ or sold at below-cost. The claim is denied by both Australia and Chinese importers. 

November 30: Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Lijian Zhao posted a doctored image showing a grinning Australian soldier holding a knife to the throat of an Afghan child. The move outraged Australians. 

December 12: Australian coal is added to a Chinese blacklist.

December 24: China suspends imports of Australian timber from NSW and WA after local customs officers say they found pests in the cargo.

January 11, 2021: Australia blocks $300million construction deal that would have seen state-owned China State Construction Engineering Corporation takeover Probuild. The bid was blacked over national security concerns. 

February 5, 2021: China confirms Melbourne journalist and single mother Cheng Lei has been formally arrested after being detained in August, 2020.

February 23, 2021: China accuses Australia of being in an ‘axis of white supremacy’ with the UK, USA, Canada and NZ in an editorial.

March 11, 2021: Australia is accused of genocide by a Communist Party newspaper editor. 

March 15, 2021: Trade Minister Dan Tehan announced he wants the World Trade Organisation to help mediate discussions between the two countries over the trade dispute. 

April 21, 2021: Foreign Minister Marise Payne announces Australia has scrapped Victoria’s controversial Belt and Road deal with China using new veto powers. 

May 6, 2021: China indefinitely suspends all strategic economic talks with Australia, blaming the Morrison Government’s attitude towards the relationship. The move cuts off all diplomatic contact with Beijing under the China-Australia Strategic Economic Dialogue, freezing discussions between key officials below a ministerial level.

June 22, 2021: China tries to ‘ambush’ Australia with a push to officially declare the Great Barrier Reef ‘in danger’ 

September 15, 2021: Australia, the UK and the US announce the AUKUS security pact which will give the Australian military nuclear-powered submarines to counter China growing aggression in the Indo Pacific. The move is met with seething anger in Beijing. 

March 24, 2022: Details of a Memorandum of Understanding emerge which could allow Beijing to station warships on the Solomon Islands, just 1,000 miles off the coast of Australia. Canberra warns it is ‘concerned by any actions that destabilise the security of our region’.

April 25, 2022: Defence Minister Peter Dutton warns on Anzac Day that Russia and China’s resurgence means Australia must be on a war-footing. ‘The only way you can preserve peace is to prepare for war, and to be strong as a country,’ he said. ‘We’re in a period very similar to the 1930s.’

April 27, 2022: Home Affairs Minister Karen Andrew says China is likely to send troops to the Solomon Islands, and was using the row to derail Australia’s Federal Election. She said Beijing was ‘clearly very aware we are in a federal election campaign at the moment.’

May 13, 2022: Defence Minister Peter Dutton announces Australian military are tracking a Chinese spy ship 250 nautical miles northwest of Broome in WA near the Harold E Holt naval communication station. The sighting was mostly written off as a pre-election stunt.

June 5, 2022: A Chinese fighter jet intercepts an Australian spy plane with a ‘dangerous manoeuvre’ on May 26 and the details are revealed weeks later.

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