China’s southwest extends power curbs amid scorching weather

China’s southwest extends power curbs amid scorching weather

China has extended power rationing due to low water levels in hydroelectric dams, prolonging economic disruption from the country’s driest summer in decades.

The power restrictions, which have forced the closure of factories across southwestern China, will continue until at least Thursday, local media and factories said on Monday.

The “tense situation” in Sichuan province has “further intensified”, reported Tencent News, which included a photo of a government notice to companies.

In Chongqing, the province’s largest city, authorities announced that opening hours at shopping malls would be shortened from Monday to cope with the “urgent” energy shortage.

The announcement means dozens of shopping malls will have to operate from 4pm to 9pm to “ensure the safe and orderly supply of power and ensure the basic needs of the masses”, the Chongqing Economic And Information Commission said.

Scorching weather across southwestern China has wilted crops and dried up rivers, disrupting cargo traffic in the Yangtze, one of China’s biggest trade channels.

The National Meteorological Center said as many as 62 weather stations, including in Sichuan in the southwest and Fujian on the southeastern coast, recorded record temperatures on Sunday.

State media outlets have reported that the government plans to use chemicals to generate rain to safeguard the autumn grain harvest, which accounts for 75 percent of China’s annual total.

China drought

The drought adds to mounting economic challenges for the ruling Communist Party, including repeated disruptions to business due to a “zero COVID” policy aimed at eradicating coronavirus outbreaks at almost any cost.

Beijing is hoping to shore up flagging economic growth before President Xi Jinping seeks an unprecedented third five-year term in power in October or November.

Factories in Sichuan that make key industrial products such as processor chips and parts were forced to close or scale back operations last week to save power as temperatures soared as high as 45 degrees Celsius (113 degrees Fahrenheit).

The government says this summer is the hottest and driest since records began in 1961.

Sichuan, which is home to 94 million, has been especially hard-hit as it gets 80 percent of its power from hydroelectric dams, while other provinces rely more on coal-fired power.

Officials are anticipating the situation could improve from Wednesday as a cold front moves into China via the far-western region of Xinjiang.