The commodities super cycle ends

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David Llewellyn-Smith
Latest posts by David Llewellyn-Smith (see all)

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  1. Do not worry fellow Australian’s – we are one of the biggest landmasses in the world with only 23 million people and we are closest to China for large resource exports…….China has
    1400000000 people…….this BOOM will go for all our lifetimes. Do the number’s!

      • H&H – no pun or sarcasm intended; I know for every up their is a down, a boom, a bust…….I just think that the case for China falling in a heap is overstated. An analogy, say I’m a 45 Kg assistant to an Athlete (I have the Resources) and my big mate is 130Kg of rippling muscleness and he wants to be the biggest & strongest man in the world…….all I have to do is prepare his meals (give him the resources)…..but in actuality I have to try and feed 200 of these behemoths…….I cannot possible do it, I am fully employed and run ragged by just feeding a few dozen of the big fella’s……plenty and too much to around to try and meet the giants needs. This is Australia’s blessed position!

        • Fair enough and I’m no China bear in the long run, as I’ve made clear many times. But I do see the commodities boom passing (or shifting to food) on both declining demand and rising supply.

          • H&H – this is an area Australia can also shine; I live in Tassie and the embattled Tas Labour Government has announced a doubling of Salmon farming and a doubling of Dairying recently……no MSM picked up on it (sounds too much like good news), but if we can get our water retention & storage acts together…….we will (pardon the pun) FEEd into China’s growth. The story will continue!

          • I was thinking along similar lines in relation to China securing a sustainable food base hence their buying our farms and prime agricultural land.

            When the thought crossed my mind that it could be in China’s interests for Australia’s property market to fall dramatically thereby their being able to buy up larger portfolios of real estate—-particularly more prime agricultural land as a food bank securing their national interests at very, reduced prices.

            They only have to buy their commodities with other national suppliers………..

          • Yes & No – compared to the rest of Australia; no with unemployment at 6.5%, but compared to the USA & Europe; Yes. Tasmania is in a transition, the Tas Gov. is dealing with it’s debts and forestry will never completely go (regardless of what Greens say) and agriculture is going well. I do see better things ahead for Tassie!

    • oyu tolgoi rio tinto
      Put that in Google and check it out, Mongolia is a lot closer to China, Wages will be a fraction, running costs will be half, Would you buy ore from Australia at top dollar?

  2. I’m going to a Melbourne Morgan Stanley lecture on the same topic in two weeks. Common theme now it seems.

    • dumb_non_economist

      a63,
      Common theme it may be, but it’s hardly new! Mongolia has been on the burn for a number of years now, why are the analyst pretending to just becoming aware to this threat to BHP’s & RIO’s iron-ore dominance with regards to supplying China?

      • I didn’t say it was new. Regarding Mongolia Rio is in there buying up. Also, it not simple investing in Mongolia as even China consider it a very high sovereign risk. Don’t write off Australia as our geology produces very good deposits, and the likes of Vale are coming here for that and to be closer to China.

        • dumb_non_economist

          a63,
          Thanks for that. By “not new” I didn’t mean you, but MS etc, I’d have thought that these sorts of issues would have already been taken into account.
          I didn’t realise the Chinese considered Mongolia a sov. risk! I always thought they had a hand in the puppet, so to speak.

  3. Good article — well good data — but strange framing at the start: “Can China’s mighty demand for commodities will return”

    Who said demand for commodities has gone anywhere (at this stage)?

    If you frame the question that demand for commodities is not there then, given the data, the only possible conclusion is that it will not return.

    A more sensible approach might have been to ask how long demand for commodities can continue.

    • The change in China’s share of the global iron ore market screams bubble and is clearly unsustainable in the long term. From 14% to 61% in a decade?! Please, get a grip.

      • The change in China’s share of the global iron ore market screams bubble and is clearly unsustainable in the long term. From 14% to 61% in a decade?!

        Did you even read what I wrote or did you just see a comment from someone known to be pro mining and decided to type a spray?

        My comment was that China’s demand hasn’t gone anywhere (the article implies it has) — you confirm this in your reply about its demand being a bubble.

        Please, get a grip.

        your irrational rants stopped being funny a long time ago.

    • +1.

      One further point, the report notes that another leg of urbanisation is expected. I assume this is the opening up of the western and north eastern regions, home to large population of rural poor. And quite a scheme it is.

      http://www.china-briefing.com/news/2012/02/27/china-approves-12th-five-year-plan-for-western-regions.html

      Wen also recently advised of the construction of 54 new airports, thousands of kilometres of new road and rail, increased healthcare facilities (hospitals). Even CAC have recently announced confirmed new orders for 235 aircraft (production by 2014?).

      Always such a rush to write China off here at MB. May prove correct, may not, but mostly is only success in bringing the worms out of the woodwork. From Sinocism recently:

      http://www.sinocism.com/?p=2177

      • Also didn’t we recently read that all the new high speed rail built in china was an absolute dud. But proving you can have it both ways the rail is a dud and falling apart but apparently no new construction of rail to replace this abomination will occur?

  4. Well China’s boom may be passing, but if the model of large consumption at a particular point of development holds, India should be coming into the spotlight quite soon just after China’s commodity consumption peaks.

    • The Indians (parliament), are too dysfunctional. It is just too damn hard to get major infrastructure work funded/approved and executed in India.

      A lot of the Indian IT companies are looking to build / expand infrastructure / workforce outside of India. This could well be the catalyst for the government to do something, but I doubt it.

      • Booga – the Indian Government could build the projects in Melbourne or Hobart and use all the diaspora Indian’s ready to go!

      • The Indians (parliament), are too dysfunctional.

        You mean Indians have a functioning democracy with its checks and balances, rather than a central standing committee of unelected princlings.

    • India is no China. For one thing they’re not going on a debt binge to build stuff they don’t need.

      • Lorax, if India was booming and buying our resources, you’d dream of their demise too. It’s in your blood!

  5. Yeah but, as the Pascometer said yesterday…

    The other source of continuing calm confidence is China. While various markets suffered knee-jerk reactions to Beijing lowering its supposed “forecast” of economic growth, Stevens repeated the RBA line that growth in China had moderated “as was intended, but on most indicators remains quite robust overall”.

    (What the screen jockeys missed on the downgrade headlines is that Beijing views that growth target as a base case, not as a prediction. The cadres stuck with an 8 per cent figure for years when the result was double-digits – and the rulers of command economies don’t like to be thought of as getting the game wrong.

    Furthermore, as China matures and simply has a larger economy, the growth has to slow to have any hope of sustaining growth. Finally, from an Australian point of view, at the most basic level, 7 per cent of 200 is still a bigger number than 10 per cent of 100. Yesterday’s reaction was nonsense.)

    7% of 200 is bigger than 10% of 100. Very true, unless the main reason for a slowing of growth is a sharp slowdown in construction. But that never stopped Pascoe lecturing us all!

    • I really do think it is a number’s game Lorax – China is just so huge and if the stories read are to be believed the middle class is 30 to 300 million people, with another 1 billion that want it ASAP – Australia is in the most blessed position in the history of nation states – EVER!

      • Yawn.

        The tired old China-has-a-lot-of-people-and-therefore-cannot-fail argument. Don’t you China boosters have something better?

        • How about real hard cold cash Lorax? The immense gold & silver reserves and the rare earths and the gigantic bond holdings of China speak more than sheer weight of numbers…..this boom will moderate, but it won’t bust, unlike Australian Housing!

          • Please stop it – your just sprouting off about stuff you don’t really get.

            The Chinese hukou system prevents the billions of chinese flooding into the middle class, it is systemic and will never go away, it would collapse the country. Please educate yourself about it.

            China does not have endless pits of money, please educate yourself on this. There are many articles covering the huge debts china has (yes they have debts which they papered over during the 1998,2000 stimulus), whats more their bond holdings can not simply be sold, so the reserves in Euro, Yen, USD which china has accumulated are accounted for, they can not be used. If they were dumped onto the world market it would spike the yuan through the roof and collapse foreign currencies destroying Chinas export markets.
            China gold reserves are not out of proportion, and the rare earths in China are replicated in Afghanistan, South America etc, while there are many break through in the past 24 months which actually mean they are quite irrelevant.

            Australia is hugely reliant on Chinas demand for ore – this will collapse, and has already commenced.

            Your analogies and understanding of China are profoundly ill-informed and misguided.

          • They are tearing through the gold and silver in the ground so they will run out in the next decade or so, and in terms of CB and private reserves China is a looonnng way behind Europe, US, India and others.

            They only have an advantage in rare earths because of their advantage in having poor environmental and labour laws – the US and other nations have rare earth deposits.

            Bond holdings are a blessing and a curse – when you have a massive position in something it can become a noose. For example tf they unwind those treasuries too quickly, they lose their worth rapidly. Hell even if they signal they are moving away from the growth of their treasury holdings the market may swing.

            Just some thoughts. It’s always important to remember that history shows nations going through such periods of change and growth always bust – market inefficiencies can never be avoided and the bigger the growth, the bigger the bust formation.

          • The hukou system can be changed and in a centrally controlled economy with a large military it can be changed fairly quickly, or its negative impacts to economic growth ameliorated.

            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hukou_system

            As to China not having endless pits of money what is the relevance or even truth of that? MMT shows that a sovereign government issuing its own currency can basically do what it likes with the downsides being inflation and currency devaluation. They can skew labour towards any task by simply offering money to those people and companies who perform that task. They need to do enough trade to be able to buy the raw materials and know how they don’t have, but there isn’t much technology that China doesn’t have now (and they can use it if they really need it, IP laws not withstanding. They will pay any damages in their own currency, and who is going to start a war with China over iPhone OS? or movies or music?)

            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Modern_Monetary_Theory

          • Aristocrat, sorry Aristophrenia – sounds like you have a self fulfilling prophecy on your hands, A Chinese doomster! 1 million cars in China in 1977; as of 2011 over 85 million vehicles and it is only cranking up……China is not going away anytime soon. The UK dragged itself & Europe out of the dark ages with the Industrial Revolution and the same is happening in China…..but on massive quantities of steroids! Yea Baby!

      • If populating was sole reason for economic strength, than rabbits would have been the dominant species in the world.

        • Mav – Rabbits were once the most dominant species in Australia, until myxomatosis nearly wiped them out…..cannot see a plague or war on the horizon to wipe out the Chinese; onward & upward!

          • Please go away. Please.

            Rabbits were never the dominant species in Australia – its just a rabidly idiotic thing to say. A plague yes, dominant species ??? My god.

            I’m hoping that you will either have something vaguely insightful or remotely intelligent to add – but of course disappointed.

          • Reading your reply’s Aristophrenia is reward enough for me – the dinosaurs were once the dominant species of the earth, but gone, don’t you remember that Telstra Ad……it’s the Rabbits, the rabbits are China! The dominant species of the 21st Century!

  6. Neil, I have a sneaking suspicion that you might work or have vested interests in the mining industry – is this right?

    Nobody should underestimate the impact of history on the Chinese, they do have a terrible habit of collapsing into civil wars and political disruptions.

    The other thing to remember is that they don’t play according to the established rules that everyone else follows. For example, witness the recent decision of the Chinese government to ban Vale’s supermax ships from delivering iron ore to their ports (for reasons that only the Chinese can understand). They could just as easily get shirty at Australia and decide to play hardball with Twiggy and Gina – it’s a communist dictatorship we are dealing with here and they call the shots, not us.

    • Wont happen Sean G – why would China kill the Goose that is laying the golden egg’s? With a a very real downturn in Europe & the USA, China MUST keep going to lift it’s 1 billion out of an average wage of $2 a day….China are committed, because as you have stated, their survival depends on it! I do have a vested interest in mining & agricultural, I love Australia and want it to continue prospering for my family and my fellow Australians – all of them!

      • China’s average wage of $2 a day is, quite frankly bullshit. No other word for it Neil – but that’s all I’m seeing from you. China is on par with the Phillipines for average daily wages – and of course there is a massive fluctuation around $240 USD a month. But remember, the cost of living in China is a tiny percentage of a fraction of western nations.

        Either way, you clearly have absolutely no idea about the history of China, the politics and culture of China when you write, in response to the consideration of political turmoil, which every single Chinese commentator is aware of and writes about frequently, is simply “WONT HAPPEN.”, Why kill the Goose that laid the Golden Egg. Its ironic because in your same naive rant you stated the reason, massive income disparity, huge barriers to entry via the hokou system, enormous levels of corruption, incredibly disparate ethnic identities, hugely restless and non-nationalistic proletariates etc, etc, etc…..oh and the massive elephant in the room – HISTORY.

        Please stop Neil….

        • Cannot help myself Aristophrenia, I may lack your wisdom & insight about Chinese history & culture; but ONE thing I do know is that the Chinese powers that be WANT this boom to continue to lift it’s people out of poverty and away from another cultural revolution. The Chinese are like us, but just heaps more…..divide 23 million into 1.4 billion, around 60 times the population of Australia…..we will ever only benefit….downturn in China? Yes, but we will still be floating on China’s largesse! Yippy!

      • What a rant…..”With a a very real downturn in Europe & the USA, China MUST keep going to lift it’s 1 billion out of an average wage ….blah, blah”
        And how they are going to do that? Buying more dirt from Australia? And selling it to whom? To your fellow Australians I believe….

        • The Chinese will have to sell the goodies to themselves, India and the rest of Asia…..don’t worry about Europe or the USA, it will work itself out!

      • russellsmith55

        Not sure if you’re trolling Neil… if so, funny as, good job… otherwise, you’re making a lot of unsubstantiated claims and just spouting mindless patriotic enthusiasm.

        If you have real reasons why China’s demand for commodities will continue at bubble-like highs for the next decade, and you can cite something reputable supporting your stance, please post it. Otherwise, have a good hard think about whether your methods of persuasion will actually work on this audience.

        • Obviously russellsmith55 this audience is a tough gig – cannot please a soul! I am not a troll, but I happen to believe what I am writing, I’m a glass 9 tenths full kind of guy. As for statistics, is their not lies, damned lies and statistics? We in Oz are doing very well compared to the rest of the world…..if you believe China is to go belly up, then that is an unrealistic world to live in, for that to happen the whole world economy would have to collapse…….I sometimes wonder if thats what many bloggers want. Until the possible demise of the whole world system, I will go along on my happy way thanks!

        • No not trollling russell; I believe in the continued prosperity of Australia with the resources boom, along with PM Gillard, wayne Swan and Tony Abbott. Do you?

    • The reasons why the Chinese banned Vale ships are obvious: first, the recent incident in South America where one of the new Vale ships blocked up the whole port – China cannot afford to have a whole terminal tied up in that manner; and second, the Chinese previously had the iron ore shipping pretty much tied up – they are just boycotting a competitor.

  7. This is one of the more stupid articles I have read on MB. “Getting a massage simply does not use as much steel as building an airport” – so profound!

    The bottom line is that China is still only 51% urbanized. Assume that ends up at 70% (low for a developed nation). That’s another 280 million people to build cities and associated infrastructure for. That’s more cities than in the whole USA. A lot of airports, a lot of roads, a lot of railway – and a lot of steel.

    China boom has ended? Pull the other one.

      • A very honest response, H&H! You have risen in my estimation.

        Usually when we lack knowledge (eg of the future!) we assume that the experience of the recent past will continue. We know that this will prove wrong at some point, but it is still the most rational position to take.

        In the absence of good evidence to the contrary, it’s probably the best assumption re China at the moment.

      • I’m curious HnH. A number of times recently you have expressed a fear (in this case scare) re China. Is this simply from an economic perspective or from a geopolitical one too. Does this ‘concern’ feed into distaste for the mining sector in Australia – one comment in the past would allude to such?

        Cheers.

          • Lol. The ‘distaste’ is obvious!

            I did not use the term ‘yellow peril’ and don’t think you intended it that way but recall you saying something loosely along the lines of/gist of

            selling them our dirt which in turn is made into weapons/military equipment(?) that could be then used against us/others

            I think I commented on it then and you responded that it was a bit OTT.

            I am serious though. Your background and interest in the geopolitical sphere may in turn (even subconsciously) influence other views.

            Time for a Flashman guest post?

          • DrBob127MEMBER

            HnH, how do you feel are being psychoanalysed by mining-bot?

            Do you feel better for discovering your (subconscious) biases?

      • +1 Agree. Reading the CS extracts doubled my knowledge – not hard some would say!

        Gittins (I know some here don’t like him) did an article in SMH some time ago (1 or 2 years) suggesting that absent political disaster China had another couple of decades on a trajectory that would favour Australia, perhaps decreasingly so as time goes by.

    • Why do we need the Pascoemeter when we have you! You sound exactly like the Pascoemeter.. insults et al.

        • False equivalence much?

          I am not a China booster who throws the odd insult – a template for every Pascoemeter article, and increasingly the posts by China fanboys here.

          • Mav. That takes the cake.

            Good grief. Every day you and the other usual suspect cheerlead the China collapse, the resources collapse, the housing collapse, collapse in all its forms.

            Collapseniks both. The insults, snide comments and general name-calling come from Collapsenik turf which is riddled with schadenfreude and worse.

            The unrelenting barrage of the type of comments that are the speciality of the usual suspects is in danger of dragging this site in Zerohedgification. Possible appropriate as this article itself was cross posted from ZH.

            Give it a rest. Collapseniks: find something useful to say.

      • mate yesterday you launched into a tirade on me and when I challenged you about it — suggested I’d donate to charity if you could verify — you back peddled — blamed Flaws and 3d1k instead, both of whom were not part of the thread and unable to defend themselves. Your entire MO is puerile insults and barbs.

    • I wonder if the last decade’s demand for commodities has been due to both a lot of city refurbishment (not associated with new people moving from rural to urban environments) in addition to urban migration. I don’t know how much of the former is left to complete and when it runs its course, year on year growth will drop for construction despite the continued rural to urban migration that is forecast.

  8. I simply repeat my point above, of all the recent comment streams at MB this has been the lowest quality by some margin. Little data, bugger all evidence, a lot of supposition and nobody listening to other’s arguments.

    This stream is great disappointment.

    • Agreed h&h. But for a blog trying to be one of a serious nature, it’s a pity to see so many purile and insulting comments get thro. I know TP has another life and monitoring a website is now probably a full time job, so maybe a ‘final warning’ to some is needed.

  9. I find the China has a lot of people so it cannot fail a strange argument. Surely we should have unfettered immigration if that was the case.

  10. H&H, you are very much on the money with your comment about our lack of knowledge on China. We don’t know where it is headed or what the final outcome will be; the thing I was trying to point out to Neil (earlier) was that we simply don’t know at what point consumption will slow or whether or not we might lose out because Australia falls out of political favour. All these things are in the ether.

    The factor the confounds any attempt to accurately predict where it might be going or headed is the fact that Chinese history shows it is actually remarkably unstable. As Astrophrenia pointed out, it is actually a nation comprised of a number of disparate ethnic groups with different interests and objectives (somewhat like Iraq or India). There is a long history of civil war, colonisation, revolution, more civil war, more revolution and (more recently) political internal strife together with mass starvation and executions. The last 40 years since Mao have been probably the most stable in China’s long history – there’s no reason to assume that the problems with revolution and war won’t re-emerge sometime soon.

    Read any book about Chinese political history and you’ll realise that they are probably due for a systemic upheaval in the very near future.

  11. Richard McGregor’s book The Party is an interesting read. Its focus is on the practical difficulties faced by the CCP in co-ordinating the country.

    Difficult to make predictions on what will happen but suffice to say running the place is more art than science and getting more and more complicated as the economy grows.

    Hard to imagine they won’t stumble at some point but only the CCP would really know when and how bad and they are not telling.

    A lot of insiders preparing parachutes or investing outside the country may be an indication of trouble but that may merely prove to be a changing of the guard with minor eco consequences.

  12. I am so totally bored of this argument.

    Good luck to anyone who thinks current commodity demand growth rates can continue ad infinitum, that commodity prices can continue to rise in the face of a massive supply response, or that commodity related stocks will outperform broader markets over the next five years. Good luck to you. You’ll be on the other side of my trade.

    • Haven’t seen too many saying commodity prices will continue to rise; consensus is for moderation in prices at best and a full-on correction if HnH and Andy D are proved correct. Time will tell.

  13. I think this question of China experiencing an upheaval of some description is quite important.

    Yes, aggregated, China’s history has seen many periods of instability. But that is to be expected, given that it is the oldest continuous culture on earth. The Ming dynasty saw roughly three centuries of relative calm, so this idea that the previous 40 years is the longest period of stability in China’s history is wide of the mark. Likewise, you cannot argue that any period of stability, however long, necessitates an imminent collapse. You need to look at the circumstances on the ground at any given point in time. Consider Europe. History suggests it ought to be in a constant state of conflict. Yet today, even in its dysfunctional and acrimonious state of affairs, there is but the remotest possibility that the continent will again go to war with itself.

    So what are the circumstances in China today? Well, first and most obviously it has achieved something simply unmatched in human history: the alleviation from poverty of 660 million people in three decades. This can’t be taken for granted. Although wealth in China is highly inequitable, there is widespread appreciation amongst the burgeoning middle class for this economic miracle. Unlike in Russia, where the middle class is leading the dissent against Putin and the Kremlin, China’s middle classes are by and large supporters of the CCP. Any policy adjustments designed to bolster consumption will help swell the ranks of the middle class, and in so doing, buttress the CCP.

    I fully expect that, in time, this growing wealth will engender calls for greater political freedoms. But I don’t believe this will occur any time soon. It is hard to see China’s nouveau riche jeopardising their gains just yet. Any revolt against the central government would have to emerge within the cities, as rural communities don’t possess the capabilities of mobilizing quickly on any sort of scale large enough challenge the central government. Yet cities are by and large strongholds of the middle class.

    One potentially important fault line lies between the wealthy urban coastal provinces and poorer inland ones. It is conceivable that either the inland grows discontented with the inequality, or that wealthy coastal regions become resentful of having to piggyback the inner provinces (or both). But wealth is beginning to move inland as wages rise on the coast, so I imagine this is an unlikely outcome.
    http://www.economist.com/node/21548273

    Although there are 55 recognized ethnic minorities in China, they make up only 8.5% of the population. Of these, the most restive are the Tibetans and the Uighurs, numbering roughly 5 and 11 million, respectively. So, sadly, there really is nothing either group can do to resist or reverse the colonization of their homelands by the Han majority. And certainly neither possesses the clout to instigate serious instability beyond their sparsely-populated home provinces.

    The complete absence of anything resembling a viable organized opposition is a testament to the dominance of the CCP. It truly is monolithic; membership is still highly advantageous and widely sought after. Its leaders are paranoid; witness the overblown reaction to calls for a ‘Chinese Spring’ last year. But they must also be seen as vigilant; they are determined to anticipate and remain one step ahead of any attempt to destabilize the country. I wouldn’t underestimate their proficiency in this regard. Remember, in spite of the attention afforded to China’s military ambitions, it still spends more on internal security than it does on defence.
    http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/03/05/us-china-parliament-security-idUSTRE82403J20120305

    China’s economics throws up some big questions, and to me it’s essentially an enigma in this regard. However, I agree with H&H in that the long term outlook for China is solidly bullish. I don’t see a dramatic implosion of the kind some have been anticipating. There have certainly been misallocations of capital, but I don’t believe to an extent that can derail the long march of development altogether, and it would take something of this magnitude to weaken the central government to the point that a national political and social crisis emerged.

    Finally, however well you think you know Chinese history, it cannot be compared to how well China’s leaders know it. They are acutely aware of the humiliation wrought on them by European interference, a humiliation made possible by disunity and a weak central authority. Perhaps circumstances will evolve that are beyond their control, but as I’ve outlined above, I doubt they will in any material sense in the near to medium term. It may seem naive to place one’s faith in the ability of an opaque and paranoid dictatorship to maintain stability. But this particular dictatorship has achieved things on a scale no other has ever done before. They are, in that many regards, unique. Whether they are uniquely capable of staving off the kind of turmoil that has plagued China in the past is a matter of debate, but it looks to me as though they are.

  14. I just love that Failed Baby Boomer name.
    being one of those failed baby boomers ..you have plenty of sympathy I mean empathy from me.
    it takes another baby boomer to know what a heavy burden it is to shoulder ..I mean the heaviness of having to acknowledge every day ..every day that you have failed
    but keep trying ..you have my support

  15. Is that metallurgical coal at 14%?

    Because I thought China produced/consumed about half world coal production in 2011, at about 3Gt out of a total of 6Gt.

    IMO even if there is a near term slow down in commodities from China, the only way demand for steel and coal is going up unless China enters a terminal recession.

    This is based on the very near term crunch in oil supply and more importantly maintaining or even growing (!!) their coal production. Coal is the power house of the Chinese economy, providing something like 80% of their energy needs.
    With something like 0.7% growth/contraction for each 1% growth/contraction in energy consumption, all eyes should be on Chinas coal production as a determinant of possible Chinese growth/contraction.

    Producing 3Gt of coal a year (equal to the rest of the world) I strongly doubt they can maintain this for long, not least because they have relatively modest coal reserves.

    Even mild drops of 2-3% a year of Chinese coal production amounts to epic amounts of required imports. Every three years they would need another Australia to stop a decline of consumption.

    Alternatively they make a switch to nuclear, hydro, wind, solar PV or solar thermal… notice I only mention sources that have a hope physically of supplying their energy needs (see Tom Murphy, ‘Do The Math’) and these all require copious amounts of steel… once again Australia to the rescue with coal, iron ore and uranium.