SHANGHAI (AP) — In the midst of President Xi Jinping’s efforts to consolidate power, economic strains have forced factories in China’s southwest to close because reservoirs used to generate hydropower have run dry.
It was reported on Wednesday that businesses in Sichuan province, including those that produce solar panels, cement, and urea, had to shut down or drastically reduce production after being ordered to ration power for up to five days. That was because of a combination of low reservoir levels and high electricity demand due to air conditioning during extreme heat.
The provincial government issued an order on Tuesday that read, “Leave power for the people.”
China’s most powerful leader in decades, Xi, plans to try to break with tradition and award himself a third five-year term as leader at a meeting in October or November, and the shutdowns only add to the difficulties the ruling Communist Party is already facing.
July’s slower-than-expected industrial output and retail sales growth slowed China’s economic recovery from the shutdown of Shanghai and other industrial centers beginning in late March to combat virus outbreaks.
During the first six months of 2022, economic growth averaged just 2.5% over the same period a year earlier, well below the yearly target of 5.5%.
After only about half of the normal amount of rain fell during the summer in parts of central and northern China, emergency measures were taken to protect drinking water supplies. According to the Xinhua News Agency, two villages near Chongqing in the southwest were supplied with water by fire trucks.
Crops across hundreds of thousands of hectares (acres) in central and northern China have wilted due to lack of water and high temperatures, according to the government. The summer growing season was a failure in some regions.
Heat indexes of 40 degrees Celsius have been predicted for some regions, the weather service has warned (104 Fahrenheit).
The Sichuan Provincial Department of Economics and Information Technology reports that this month water levels in hydropower reservoirs have dropped by as much as half.
The pesticide and fertilizer manufacturing division of Guoguang Co., Ltd. was closed from Monday through at least Saturday, the company announced on the Shenzhen Stock Exchange.
Solar panel manufacturers in Sichuan, including Tongwei Solar Co. Ltd. and GCL-Poly Energy Holdings Ltd., have reported receiving orders to reduce electricity usage.
According to East Money, a business news outlet, Tongwei stated that the “power cut and production shutdown have not had much impact.”
Last year, China faced similar stresses when factories in Guangdong province, in the southeast, one of the world’s most important manufacturing centers, were ordered to shut down because hydropower reservoirs had run low due to sparse rain.
According to Xinhua, the government has set aside 280 million yuan ($41 million) for drought relief in the provinces of Hebei and Shanxi, as well as the northern region of Inner Mongolia and the northeastern province of Liaoning.
There has been such a lack of precipitation that some smaller and medium-sized rivers have dried up entirely, the report states.
Authorities have warned that heavy rains in the northwest, across Inner Mongolia, and into the northeast could cause flooding in some areas on Tuesday.
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