China has a history of toying with foreign industries - including Australian wine, beef and coal - but one expert says the numbers tell a more complex story.
Trade Minister Simon Birmingham was asked in Beijing on Friday about Australian coal being delayed at Chinese ports, and he promised to take it up with his Chinese counterpart.
"I'll be seeking to better understand in relation to the additional checks and safeguards that are apparently being applied around thermal coal," Senator Birmingham told reporters in Beijing.
"How our businesses can get clarity as to what those checks are, how they can have certainty around how long it takes to clear customs processes, so that Chinese businesses and their customers can enjoy certainty of supply from those Australian providers."
University of Technology Sydney Professor James Laurenceson says the risk of China using economic coercion was real.
"South Korean tourists in 2017 - they shut off group tours from China to Korea and the numbers plummeted pretty much overnight," he told AAP.
"The Philippines have had dramas about bananas, Norway's had dramas about salmon and Japan's had dramas about rare earth exports."
But that only tells part of the story.
"In the case of Korea, Japan, Norway, Philippines, when you look at the data, while individual products were being targeted ... in every single case total exports from those countries to China were actually increasing," Prof Laurenceson said.
"When you're thinking about Chinese economic coercion, it is real, I'm not dismissing it, but it tends to be highly targeted, and it's not designed to destroy the whole trading relationship."
The ABS says Australia sent $1.2 billion worth of coal to China just in May alone - 22.3 per cent of all the coal exported that month.
China also took 39.5 per cent of Australia's total exports in May.
Prof Laurenceson said last year there were reports of Australian beef and wine facing delays at Chinese ports.
"But guess what? You get to the end of the year, wine and beef well had record-breaking years to China last year," he said.
As for coal, exports to China are up 16.56 per cent in 2019 on last year, Prof Laurenceson said.
Australian Associated Press