Beijing has accused Canberra of playing the victim in an increasingly bitter trade dispute while justifying a Chinese ban on Australian coal.

There has been no formal notification of the ban, but a spokesman for the Chinese foreign ministry did not deny it was in place.

He said everything China did was legal and in the interests of its consumers and companies.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the ban would be a lose-lose for both countries and a clear breach of World Trade Organisation rules.

He also emphasised it would force China to buy dirtier coal from other countries, putting its climate change ambitions at risk.

China has slapped a series of trade bans and tariffs on Australian goods as diplomatic tensions simmer over foreign interference and investment laws and calls for an independent inquiry into the origins of coronavirus.