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China’s Guangdong Province Suffers Power, Water Outages Amid Australian Coal Ban

Neil Campbell
Neil lives in Canada and writes about society and politics.
Published: December 27, 2020
Australia Coat Mine
Coal mine near Collie, Western Australia. (Image: Calistemon via Wikimedia CC BY SA 3.0)

Chinese social media posts complained of several cities in China’s Guangdong Province suffering from widespread power outages at midnight Dec. 21, according to Radio Free Asia (RFA). Although the climate is relatively mild in Guangdong this time of year, the outages impacted Asian winter solstice celebrations called the Dongzhi Festival. 

The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) state-run enterprise Guangdong Power Supply Bureau claimed power was restored after only an hour, blaming the outage on an equipment failure. But according to Hong Kong’s Apple Daily, a typically anti-CCP publication, the Party-owned company China Southern Power Grid described the incident as a “grid failure.”

Incidentally, Apple Daily’s founder Jimmy Lai was arrested and held without bail after the Communist regime reneged on its “One Country, Two Systems” promise with the United Kingdom in 2019. 

Power outage may link to ban on import of Australia coal

A Guangzhou resident told RFA that the incident was not an isolated one, saying there were many outages in recent weeks. He pointed to the CCP’s sanctions against Australian coal imports as the cause: “After no outages for 10 years, suddenly this is happening again. The reason in this case is that coal supplies are too scarce, and aren’t enough [to meet demand]. I heard they are unable to generate enough electricity.”

Blackout in Guang Dong
A blackout in Guangzhou is shown following a power grid failure, Dec. 21, 2020 (Image: Radio Free Asia)

The CCP’s coal imports from Australia in 2019 amounted to $14 billion. The ban on Australian coal is part of a series of increasingly aggressive posturing by the Party after the Australian government called for investigations into the Chinese origins of the CCP Virus pandemic that has killed more than 1.7 million people worldwide.

On December 1, the Inter-Parliamentary Alliance on China (IPAC), an NGO that describes its mission as promoting “a coordinated response between democratic states to challenges posed by the present conduct and future ambitions of the People’s Republic of China” launched a global campaign to purchase Australian wine to “stand against Chinese government bullying” of the Oceanic country. 

IPAC is exclusively composed of members from 19 governments around the world, including all members of the Five Eyes intelligence alliance (Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the UK, and the U.S.).

RFA found the keywords “Guangzhou power outage” attracted millions of hits on Sina Weibo, confirming speculation that residents had no advance notice of the outages. Other posts found on Chinese social media revealed that water and cellular signals were also affected during the outage.

A retired professor of Jiangxi University, Wang Liang, told RFA that CCP censorship had become active around reports of the outages: “Any posts about coal shortages or power outages are being deleted…The line is that it’s controllable, and that the grid is capable of meeting basic supply needs.”

“They are blocking retweets of any Weixin (Mainland China’s version of WeChat) posts about power outages,” said Wang. 

According to the Sydney Morning Herald, CCP propaganda organ Global Times reported that a Party agency had met with 10 power agencies over the weekend, giving them permission to import coal “without clearance restrictions, except for Australia, in a bid to stabilize coal purchase prices.”

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