Iron ore has often been seen as Australia's trump card when it comes to its trade spat with China.
But not for long, according to Beijing mouthpiece the Global Times.
Chinese imports of iron ore from Australia are at near-record levels and the Asian giant is heavily dependent on the commodity to support its extensive steel production.
As Sino-Australian relations deteriorated in 2020, Beijing slapped non-essential exports such as beef, barley and wine with trade sanctions – a move it simply cannot afford with iron ore as it pushes on with its ambitious infrastructure plans in the wake of its economic pandemic dip.
China's hope of sourcing its iron ore from elsewhere have proven largely fruitless so far, however a Global Times report suggests the lucrative industry for Australia, valued at a predicted $136 billion annually, is set to enter a downwards spiral.
Iron ore imports to China are to be halved by 2030 as Beijing looks to expand the scrap steel recycling industry, Rafael Suchan, CEO of Germany-based metal recycling company Scholz Recycling Group, told the nationalistic publication.
Chen Hong, a professor and director of the Australian Studies Center at the East China Normal University, told the Global Times, the Australian economy could enter a "wintry period" as a result.
He warned Prime Minister Scott Morrison to "stop deluding people" that bilateral trade is not suffering as a result of strained relations and warned China will be left with no choice but to seek alternatives as the Morrison government continues its combative approach.
Under China's 14th Five-year Plan, Beijing plans to increase its crude steel made with recycled steel from 22 per cent to 30 per cent, Mr Suchan says. The recycling industry for scrap steel is expected to double in 10 years.
Mr Morrison yet to flinch in dispute
Mr Morrison vowed to stand up to economic coercion and called for a unity from other leading democracies.
“Where there are no consequences for coercive behaviour, there is little incentive for restraint," he said.
Beijing has repeatedly said it rejects Canberra's position on Chinese investment in Australia where the Morrison government says it has has tightened rules to safeguard national security and interests.
Australia's decision to voice its objection to China's moves in Xinjiang, Taiwan and Hong Kong, matters Beijing deems internal, has also riled the Communist Party of China.
On Wednesday evening, as Japan threw its support behind Australia in its stance against China, foreign ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin once again lashed Canberra in what has become a common feature of the ministry's daily press conferences.
"Japan and Australia are hyping up the so-called 'China threat' theory, maliciously slandering and attacking China and wantonly meddling in China's domestic affairs," he told reporters.
"China firmly rejects this.
"We urge Japan and Australia to abide by international law and basic norms of international relations including respect for other countries' sovereignty and non-interference, stop meddling in China's internal affairs and stop undermining regional peace and stability."
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