Home Enterprise bank Yangtze shrinks as China drought disrupts industry

Yangtze shrinks as China drought disrupts industry


CHONGQING, China (AP) — Ships slipped through the middle of the Yangtze on Friday after China’s driest summer in six decades left one of the mightiest rivers barely half its normal width and sparked a scramble to contain the damage to a weak economy in a politically sensitive year.

Factories in Sichuan province and the adjacent southwest metropolis of Chongqing have been ordered to close after reservoirs that supply hydroelectricity fell to half their normal level and demand for air conditioning grew in scorching temperatures.

Chongqing’s river ferries, which are usually packed with tourists, were empty and tied to piers next to mudflats that stretched up to 50 yards (50 yards) from the normal shoreline to the depleted river’s edge. Smaller ships sailed through the middle of the Yangtze, one of China’s largest trading channels, but no large cargo ships could be seen.

Normally busy streets were empty after temperatures hit 45 degrees Celsius (113 degrees Fahrenheit) in Chongqing on Thursday. State media said it was the hottest in China outside the Xinjiang desert region in the northwest since official records began in 1961.

“We can’t live this summer without air conditioning,” said 22-year-old Chen Haofeng, who was taking photos of the exposed riverbed. “Nothing can refresh us.”

The disruption adds to challenges for the ruling Communist Party, which is trying to shore up sluggish economic growth ahead of a meeting in October or November when President Xi Jinping is expected to seek a third five-year term in office.

The world’s second-largest economy grew just 2.5% from a year earlier in the first half of 2022, less than half the official target of 5.5%.

The impact of the drought in Sichuan is exceptionally severe as the province gets 80% of its electricity from hydroelectric dams.

Thousands of factories that make processor chips, solar panels and auto components in Sichuan and Chongqing shut down this week for at least six days.

Some said there was no interruption in supply to customers, but the Shanghai city government said in a letter released Thursday that Tesla Ltd. and a major Chinese automaker had been forced to suspend production.

The city government of Chengdu, the capital of Sichuan province, has asked households to save energy by setting the air conditioning to at least 27 C (80 F). Another city, Dazhou, had earlier announced three-hour daily power cuts in neighborhoods.

The Yangtze River Basin, which covers parts of 19 provinces, produces 45% of China’s economic output, according to the World Bank.

Low water levels in rivers have also forced cargo shipments to a halt.

A canal that connects Wuhan on the Yangtze to the city of Anqing in northeast Anhui has been closed because it was too shallow for ships to travel safely, Shanghai newspaper The Paper reported. .

The national impact of the shutdowns is limited because Sichuan accounts for only 4% of industrial output, while other provinces use more coal-fired power, which has not been disrupted.

The government said China’s two main state-owned power companies, State Grid Ltd. and Southern Grid Ltd., transferred electricity from 15 other provinces to Sichuan.

A member of the seven-member ruling Communist Party Standing Committee, Han Zheng, pledged official support to ensure electricity supply during a visit to State Grid on Wednesday, according to the official Xinhua news agency.

China suffered similar disruptions last year when a dry summer caused hydropower shortages and shuttered factories in southeastern Guangdong province, a global manufacturing hub. Other areas have suffered power cuts due to coal shortages and mandatory power cuts to meet official energy efficiency targets.

This year is unlikely to be that bad, according to Macquarie Group’s Larry Hu.

“If the power rationing in Sichuan lasts only a few weeks, the impact on industrial production nationwide is expected to be very limited,” Hu said in a report.

Xuguang Electronics Co. in Chengdu said the six-day shutdown would reduce its output by 48,000 electronic circuits. The company said it expected to take a 5 million yuan ($600,000) hit to its annual profit.

BOE Technology Group Co., which makes electronic displays, said a subsidiary in Sichuan would suspend production. BOE promised in a statement issued by the Shenzhen Stock Exchange to “fully guarantee the delivery of customer products”.

Reports said Sichuan producers of solar panels and lithium for electric cars also shut down, but no company announced a supply disruption.


AP video producer Olivia Zhang contributed to this report.