All right, for the moment these shortages have not been realized, but if you weren’t aware China is currently experiencing some of the worst snowstorms and winter weather it has had in decades. I don’t care if you believe in global warming or not, there is something seriously wrong with our weather patterns and this is yet another extreme example of it. For those of you who don’t like geography, let me explain. Yes, China is big, and yes, most of the northern cities are always subject to snow in the winter. But a much greater portion of China is in the tropical and subtropical region. Large cities in the south like Hong Kong and Guangzhou actually like below the Tropic of Cancer. The only area in the US below that line are parts of Hawaii. So the fact that winter storms and related power losses are crippling the entire country is astounding.
The government is working to secure money for farmers who are losing their rice crop to the unseasonable weather. Rice grows mostly in the south, where it’s warmer and wetter, and typically at this time of year it rains lightly almost every day. Evidently that precipitation has become much heavier than usual, and is freezing rather than raining down warmly. It’s gotten so bad that the Prime Minister (and we’re talking high Communist official here, not Bill Clinton) issued a public apology. If the weather continues, there’s fear that they will lose major portions of this year’s rice crop.
The storms couldn’t have come at a worse time, either. In just a few days it will be time for Spring Festival, the Chinese holiday that combines Christmas, Thanksgiving, and New Year’s all into one week of fun, family, and food. It is the worst possible time to travel in China, because everyone is going home. The train system only allows purchase of tickets 3 days in advance (unless you have connections), which means that lines are long and crowded, with police everywhere trying to keep people from cutting. Tempers are high, patience is low, and even when you have tickets, getting on the train is ridiculous. Spring Festival is a time to spend that extra money for a soft sleeper if you can get one, because the standing room is going to be packed as tight as humanly possible. Even if you get a seat, people are going to be standing over you, and maybe sitting underneath or on top of you.
Add all this to power outages and train service being completely down in the weeks leading up to Spring Festival, and you have billions of unhappy people. Literally.