A rare public advisory by the Chinese government asking people to store essential daily necessities for “emergency needs” sparked concern of possible food shortages, new COVID-19 outbreaks or a likely offensive by China to capture Taiwan.
In the statement released on Monday, the Ministry of Commerce said that it has issued an official notice about ensuring stable supplies and prices of vegetables and daily necessities during the upcoming winter and spring seasons, state-run Global Times reported.
At the end of the brief statement, the ministry said that it “encourages families to store a certain amount of daily necessities in accordance with their needs to meet daily and emergency needs.”
The rare public advisory sparked off speculation after it was widely posted on social media, while official media too began highlighting it on Tuesday though in the form of playing it down saying that the public should not read too much into it or wrongly interpret the statement.
The announcement from the ministry came amid rising tensions across the Taiwan Straits, rising vegetable prices, and power shortages as winter approaches, Global Times report said, adding that the announcement did not spark any panic buying.
China is currently passing through a sensitive political phase as it dealt with recurring coronavirus spikes in several cities including Beijing denting its Zero COVID policy. The deadly pandemic was first reported in the central Chinese city of Wuhan in late 2019.
Repeated strong statements by President Xi Jinping warning action to reunify the estranged island of Taiwan with mainland also sparked fears of imminent military action by Beijing, though he emphasised peaceful reunification in his recent speech.
China claims Taiwan is part of it.
Beijing has stepped up political rhetoric backed by an unprecedented over 200 military planes forays into Taiwan’s Air Defence Identification Zone (ADIZ) as the US increased its military assistance including stationing a few troops for the first time on the island to train Taiwanese military.
State-run Economic Daily newspaper said the commerce ministry’s suggestion was addressing recent COVID-19 flare-ups in the country, reminding families to be prepared should they be required to undergo emergency quarantine.
In fact, the announcement targeted virus prevention and control measures, as the recent virus flare-ups in China lead to temporary shutdowns of some residential quarters, which may cause inconvenience to affected households, the Economic Daily said.
In the long run, the newspaper said, the release helps raise awareness among the public of emergency management and increase the stock of necessary household emergency goods, as a necessary supplement to the national emergency system.
China’s food prices remain stable as the consumer price index, the main gauge of inflation, rose 0.7 per cent in September year-over-year, smaller growth compared with August data, Global Times report said.