North China’s small towns, rural areas struggle with winter-induced crisis

BEIJING [China], Feb 11: People in North China’s small towns and rural areas, are struggling with an unprecedented winter-induced crisis, The Hong Kong Post reported.
Strong winds and sub-zero temperatures continue to affect normal life. A shortage in the supply of natural gas has left people to fend for themselves. Thousands of rural residents in northern China have been left without heat amid purchasing restrictions, as local government authorities have no money to place enough orders with gas suppliers to meet demand.
According to The Hong Kong Post, an increasing number of local governments in China are finding it hard to fill the hole in their budgets created by the collapse of the property market, slowing down of economic activities and excessive spending on COVID-related care in the past three years.
Any shortfall in revenue generation by provincial governments in China, earlier used to be compensated by transfer of funds from the central government. This time, however, Beijing is itself in the midst of fiscal stress, forcing local governments to resort to desperate measures like cutting salaries, reducing headcounts, and lowering subsidies.
This has affected the country’s low-and-middle-income groups, particularly during the winter season when the northern part of the country remains in the grip of freezing cold, people living in lower-tier cities and rural areas are finding themselves caught between monetary crisis and restrictive or no supply of gases at a subsidized rate to heat themselves up or cook food, according to The Hong Kong Post.
Conditions of people in China’s Hebei province’s towns and rural areas are the worst as they have to spend their nights in the cold with temperatures remaining consistently below freezing points.
The shortage of natural gas and the cold wave in China are making the winter chillier and unbearable for the residents, The New York Times recently reported.
The acute shortage of natural gas has worked as fuel to the Chinese who are already angry with the government because of the pandemic. These reactions spilt over into caustic complaints on social media.
On social media platforms, a video went viral where the temperature was seen rising in an apartment building in China’s northern province of Shanxi, with the windows plastered with bright red posters of the sort often seen at Lunar New Year, except that these posters say “cold.”
In China already hundreds of millions of people were caught in Covid since President Xi Jinping abandoned his “zero Covid” policy in early December. Before the relaxation of the policy, people were frustrated by their strict restrictions which started after the pandemic emerged in China, citizens demanded costly precautions like mass testing — measures that exhausted the budgets of local governments, reported the New York Times. (ANI)