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  • Restrictions on imports of Australian coal, China’s plans to reduce carbon emissions and a surge in exports have contributed to power cuts across the country in the last few weeks.
  • The power crunch comes as the massive real estate industry — and related construction — is under tighter scrutiny.

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BEIJING — Local Chinese authorities have abruptly ordered power cuts at many factories in the last week, reflecting a system trying to react to a number of directives from Beijing, and macroeconomic developments.

While a few economists have cut their forecasts on China’s GDP growth as a result, others are still waiting to see the scale of the impact.

Here’s a broad overview on how the power crunch developed:

Coal supply drops, prices surge

Back in late 2020, China stopped buying coal from Australia, once the Asian giant’s largest source of imported coal. Political tensions between the two countries have escalated after Australia supported an investigation into how Beijing handled the coronavirus pandemic.

Meanwhile, historically cold weather that winter drove up demand for coal. Some cities reportedly restricted electricity use in homes and factories.

Alongside a global surge in commodity prices, thermal coal, the primary fuel for electricity production, saw prices soar by more than 40% over 12 months to around 777 yuan per metric ton ($119.53) in December 2020 on the Zhengzhou Commodity Exchange, according to data from Wind Information.

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