But the government’s latest attempt to allay price and supply concerns seems to be spiraling out of control.
This orders local communities to ensure that their citizens have a “sufficient supply” of basic necessities this winter. He is also calling on those governments to keep food costs stable – a concern in recent weeks, as extreme weather conditions, energy shortages and Covid-19 restrictions threaten supply.
But Monday’s directive caught the attention of everyday Chinese in a way few other government notices have.
This seems in part to be due to the fact that it contains sparse language about the need for local authorities to encourage families to stock “daily needs”. Even though the review was not meant to be read by the average household, many internet users took it as a personal warning.
The tragedy remains in the living memory of many in the country. And while the Chinese economy has since undergone a dramatic transformation, concerns about food security persist: the government, for example, recently unveiled an “action plan” encouraging people not to order more food than they don’t need it, and point out restaurants that waste food.
There is nothing to support rumors that China is preparing for an impending war. But the online panic suggests some tension, according to Willy Lam, an assistant professor in the history department at the Chinese University of Hong Kong.
“This is a reflection of the tense geopolitical situation between China and neighboring countries,” he said.
“This reflects people’s anxiety over further drastic increases in food [costs] and also a distrust of the government, ”Lam added.
The Chinese government and some state media have tried to allay fears about food shortages.
Zhu Xiaoliang, an official with the Ministry of Commerce, told state broadcaster CCTV this week that there were plenty of supplies to be made. Zhu stressed that the directive was aimed at local authorities.
Jiangsu’s Emergency Management Department, meanwhile, on Tuesday acknowledged its concerns about “emergency supplies” on its WeChat account. But the agency said any storage recommendations are “normal” and aimed at “improving public awareness of disaster prevention.”
Such measures “are likely to have an impact on residents who visit stores, as well as market opening hours,” said Chenjun Pan, senior analyst at Rabobank who studies agriculture in China.
Lam said Beijing is also unlikely to change course, which means cities must be prepared to endure potentially long lockdowns as the government tries to keep its coronavirus case count low.
“This is a preparation for the fact that these lockdown conditions will continue, although overall the total numbers for China are in fact very low compared to other countries,” he said. added. “Beijing is unlikely to stop this zero tolerance policy.”
– CNN’s Beijing office contributed to this report.