Unprecedented heat in China crippled its economy

Andrey Yashlavsky

Heat and drought continue to torment Europeans, but other parts of the world are also ravaged by heat, adding to the pressure on economies already hit by the coronavirus pandemic and geopolitical turbulence. China has also faced hot weather unprecedented in recent decades.
The Celestial Empire is facing its worst heat wave in sixty years. This year’s heat wave was the strongest and longest in China since the country began meteorological observations in 1961, Sun Shao, a senior researcher at the Chinese Academy of Meteorological Sciences, told the Global Times. Compared to China’s record heat wave of 2013, which lasted 62 days, this year’s heat wave started much earlier. And its performance has already surpassed the level of 2013, the scientist claims.
In dozens of cities, temperatures exceed 40 degrees Celsius. Because of this, the demand for air conditioning in offices and homes has skyrocketed, which in turn has put pressure on the power grid. And the accompanying heat drought led to the depletion of the water level in the rivers, which reduced the amount of electricity generated by hydroelectric power plants.
Located in China’s southwest, Sichuan province is considered a key hydropower hub, but the region has been suffering from severe drought since July. The province’s heatwave has intensified to “the most extreme levels in six decades” since Aug. 7, with average rainfall down 51% from the same period in previous years, according to government data.
The Sichuan leadership makes no secret of the fact that the region is currently experiencing “the most difficult and extreme mom-ent” in the power supply. One city in the province, Luzhou, announced last week that street lights would be switched off at night to save energy and reduce strain on the power grid. And in the city of Dazhou, with a population of 5.4 million, authorities have announced rolling blackouts in urban areas that will affect the power supply to homes, offices and shopping malls. For now, outages will last no more than three hours, but if necessary, their duration can be adjusted.
In the Sichuan capital C-hengdu, various office buil-dings and shopping malls have also been forced to sh-ut down power supplies or even shut down. Li Chen, who works for a software company, told Hong Kong’s South China Morning Post on Wednesday that all the lights in the lobby and hallways of her office building have been turned off. All other floors are in darkness and the gym and shops are closed.” Photos posted on social media also show that lights have been turned off at most Chengdu subway stations.
Due to the wave of scorching heat that swept through China, the Sichuan provincial authorities ordered the closure of almost all factories for six days in order to alleviate the shortage of electricity in the region. A number of Chinese companies have warned that their production could be affected by the power outage in Sichuan.
As recalled by CNN Business, Sichuan is a key center for the production of semiconductors and solar panels. Accordingly, electricity rationing will affect factories owned by some of the world’s largest electronics companies.
Analysts also warn that the temporary shutdown of production in the province, which is China’s lithium mining hub, could push up the cost of the raw material, which is used as a key component in electric vehicle batteries.
Sichuan is also rich in polysilicon used in the solar photovoltaic and electronic industries. Many international semiconductor companies have factories in the province, so shutting down factories for a week could cut supplies of critical raw materials and drive up prices, analysts at Daiwa Capital said.
And other major provinces in China, including Jiangsu, Anhui and Zhejiang, have also urged businesses and citizens to conserve electricity, which has been depleted due to hot weather. In some regions, offices have been ordered to turn off elevators on the first three floors to save energy.
Extreme weather in China has also led to crop failures in many parts of the country. Moreover, if in the south in some agricultural areas there is a drought, then in the north rains and floods raged. Both turned out to be fatal for the crop. And this is fraught with a rise in the price of agricultural products.
The drought also affected the province of Henan, which is considered one of the country’s largest food producers (including primarily wheat). In Hubei Province, according to media reports, about 20 percent of the territory is currently suffering from dry weather.
Due to persistently high temperatures in many places, prices for fresh vegetables rose by 12.9% year on year, significantly higher than the same period in previous years, the National Bureau of Statistics said. However, Chinese experts have so far not expressed concern about a possible shortage of food in the country, saying that China has a stable stock of grain and is a major food producer that can ensure its food independence.