China is telling families to stock up on food and other daily essentials as bad weather, energy shortages and Covid-19 restrictions threaten to disrupt supplies.
The country’s Ministry of Commerce late Monday issued a notice directing local governments to encourage people to stockpile “daily necessities,” including vegetables, oils and poultry, in order to “meet the needs of daily life and emergencies.” The agency also urged local authorities to make sure that people have an “adequate supply” of essentials this winter into next spring. And it told those authorities to keep prices stable — a source of anxiety in recent weeks, as the cost of vegetables has surged throughout China because of unusually heavy rainfall that has hurt crops.
China has stressed the importance of shoring up food and other daily supplies in the past — including in September, ahead of a major weeklong holiday period. But those statements are usually very obviously intended for local authorities to read, and rarely capture the attention of everyday citizens. The inclusion of language in this statement that mentions families, though, appears to be putting people on edge. The sudden warning sent shock waves through Chinese social media on Tuesday, as many people speculated about the commerce ministry’s rationale. The government “didn’t even tell us to stock goods when the Covid outbreak erupted in early 2020,” wrote one Weibo user, responding to the news.
Another speculated that authorities were reminding people that they “might not be able to afford vegetables this winter.” So strong was the reaction that some within Chinese state media sought to quell concerns. Hu Xijin, the editor of the Global Times, a state-run tabloid, dismissed suggestions that the notice could be connected with rising tensions between Beijing and Taipei. China considers Taiwan an “inseparable part” of its territory, even though the Chinese Communist Party has never ruled the self-governing island. The state-owned Economic Daily, meanwhile, wrote Tuesday that authorities were attempting to remind families to prepare in case of temporary lockdowns caused by Covid-19.