The Chinese government is advising its citizens to maintain adequate stocks of basic necessities on hand as the winter season approaches. The Ministry of Commerce released the advisory on Monday, 1 November and it was not long before many Chinese social media users were playing the speculation game. The latest COVID-19 outbreaks and unusually heavy rainfall amounts have sparked concerns about a looming supply shortage. Some social media users believe the rising tensions with Taiwan are the reason for the advisory. There have been reports of panic buying as well, with rice, cooking oil and salt being the main products sought, and wisely so. Chinese media outlets have also published a list of recommended goods to store including instant noodles, vitamins, flashlights and a battery-powered radio. The alarm brought on by the advisory prompted state media to step in and attempt to calm the growing concerns. Economic Daily, a Communist Party-backed newspaper, told citizens on its website that the advisory’s purpose was to make certain people were prepared in the event of another COVID lockdown. Local authorities are being encouraged to make certain supply and prices remain stable through the coming winter months.
Speculation aside, there’s no doubt that China’s domestic supply problems run deeper than Beijing is willing to let on. Earlier bouts of extreme weather have driven concerns about food supplies. Shandong, the nation’s largest vegetable producing region, has suffered heavy flooding in September and October. Prices for some vegetables grown in this area have doubled in recent weeks. Then there are China’s continuing energy issues, which are far from being alleviated. A combination of high energy and rising food prices runs a risk of creating a storm of domestic unrest. Beijing is eager to avoid this scenario from becoming a reality for obvious reason.