Flood-Hit Henan Struggles in Disaster Aftermath With More Rain Coming

Official media and spokespersons don't seem to be reporting the full extent of the damage and loss of life, local residents say.

Flood-Hit Henan Struggles in Disaster Aftermath With More Rain Coming

As flood-stricken residents of the central Chinese province of Henan scrambled to clean up following disastrous flooding in and around the provincial capital Zhengzhou, the meteorology bureau warned of more heavy rains brought in by Typhoon In-Fa, which is predicted to make landfall at the weekend.

The official death toll from the floods, that came after a year's worth of rainfall fell on the region in six days, rose to 51 as rescuers struggled to reach villages cut off with no access to fresh food or water.

In Zhengzhou, which saw horrific scenes earlier this week as floods engulfed subway lines and busy city streets, washing away dozens of cars and dumping them in piles, firefighters were still pumping the muddy water from train tunnels.

Provincial officials told reporters Friday that the list of casualties will likely grow longer, while residents said the government isn't telling the whole truth.

"Just how many people are buried inside Jingguang Tunnel, how many relatives are missing, and are they still inside?" a Zhengzhou resident surnamed Hu told RFA on Friday.

"Many people are looking for their relatives, but stability maintenance teams are preventing them from getting anywhere near," he said. "Some of the worst-hit communities have been locked down, and residents aren't being allowed to go home."

"Maybe there are things they don't want people to know; maybe a lot of underground parking garages got flooded, and there are likely people in there too, who couldn't get out," Hu said.

Nearly half a million people have been evacuated from the region, many using temporary bridges across waters that reached the tops of trees.

Some residents said whole villages had been "flattened with nothing left," Agence France-Presse (AFP) reported.

A resident of Zhengzhou surnamed Yang said huge swathes of the city were without power or internet access on Thursday.

"The internet connection is poor, and keeps cutting out," Yang said. "There is no internet at all in some older parts of the city."

"There is still a lot of quite deep water in some places, but for now the rain clouds have moved on to places like Anyang and Xinxiang, where there is more serious flooding," she said.

Much not reported

A resident from a neighborhood near Zhengzhou University said there were many aspects of the flood disaster that hadn't been reported by the media at all.

"There was huge flooding around Zhengzhou University, around the Xifeng development zone campus, but it wasn't reported," the resident, who gave only a surname, Wang, said.

"I haven't seen any figures reported about the deaths and injuries that occurred there," she said. "They just mention power cuts, a lack of fresh water, and internet outages."

Horrifying social media video clips from inside subway trains and private vehicles, with turbulent, muddy water rising above chest height as the occupants watched anxiously made global headlines earlier this week.

But there were signs that the authorities may be clamping down on social media reporting of the floods, amid accusations from local residents that local officials were more concerned with covering up the number of casualties than with keeping residents safe.

'Picking quarrels, stirring up trouble'

Police in the high-tech crimes unit of the Anshan city police department in the northeastern province of Liaoning detained a man surnamed Wang on Thursday after he posted content to a group on the social media platform WeChat about the floods in Zhengzhou.

"Wang ... was handed 10 days' administrative detention for picking quarrels and stirring up trouble," the police statement said.

"We received a report from a member of the public that a user with the handle @Wang Dongting of Anshan E-vehicle Repairs had posted something to a WeChat group that was insulting to people in Henan, who have been hit with floods ... and which had a negative social impact," it said.

"We quickly launched an investigation and tracked down the suspect, Wang. Following investigation, Wang confessed to his illegal behavior," the statement said.

Meanwhile, authorities warned the deluge had created a 20-meter (66-foot) breach in the Yihetan dam in Luoyang – a city of approximately seven million people – with the risk that it "may collapse at any time."

Zhengzhou scholar Sun Fang said the government needs to take a long, hard look at its drainage systems and flood defenses.

"If they are going to discharge floodwater, they should do it outside of a city, not into a city," Sun said in reference to unconfirmed claims that the authorities had released floodwaters upstream of Zhengzhou to ease the pressure on a dam, but hadn't warned the population until after the event.

"I think it has something to do with a lack of consideration for urban planning and flood defenses, which should be the most basic kind of common sense," he said.

"Urban construction happens too fast, and many are prestige projects for local officials, who want to get it done quickly, but without thinking about safety," Sun told RFA in an interview on Thursday.

Translated and edited by Luisetta Mudie.

Source : Radio Free Asia More   

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China Claims Progress in Anti-Inflation Campaign

Price control tactics raise policy concerns.

China Claims Progress in Anti-Inflation Campaign

China has claimed an early victory in its battle against inflation, but the government's tactics and economic policies have left the outcome in doubt.

On July 9, the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) reported that the producer price index (PPI) for June rose 8.8 percent from a year earlier, dropping back slightly from a 12-year high of 9 percent in May.

As factory gate prices decelerated, the year-to-year growth of the consumer price index (CPI) also subsided, edging down to 1.1 percent in June from 1.3 percent a month before, the NBS said.

Officials said the numbers were a sign that inflationary pressures were under control and would not pose a threat to economic growth.

"China's economy recovered steadily in June, with ample supply in the consumer market and the stable performance of consumer prices," said NBS senior statistician Dong Lijuan, according to the official Xinhua news agency.

Some foreign media also credited the government with pushing back against the surge in commodities which has driven up prices for inputs including crude oil, natural gas, iron ore and coal this year.

"If the goal of Beijing's efforts to tame the commodities rally was to halt an escalation in manufacturing costs, the government can claim some initial success," Bloomberg News said, citing a retreat in spot prices for copper and steel coils during June.

"While the precise impact of Beijing's high-profile, multi-pronged campaign to batter down commodities prices is arguable, the implications of softer prices are becoming clear. A less frenzied commodities market and peak inflation give authorities more policy space to tackle rising pressures on the economy," Bloomberg said on July 8.

But a closer look at the economic tactics that the government brought to bear against inflation raised doubts about the real cost of marginal gains.

An examination of the economic decision-making and statistical reporting suggests that the government used a combination of crude tools and coercive policies to keep inflation from spilling over from factory gate prices into the consumer sector, resulting in only a slight pullback in price growth from the highs of May.

CPI readings continued to benefit from falling prices of pork as farmers dumped underweight hogs on the market due to fears of African swine fever outbreaks.

On June 16, China's National Food and Strategic Reserves Administration announced that it would release some of its stores of nonferrous metals to stabilize prices for the first time in over a decade.

On July 5, the authorities sold 100,000 metric tons of copper, aluminum and zinc at auction for undisclosed prices, said to be below spot market rates. The offerings were quickly snapped up, Reuters reported.

On Wednesday, the regulators announced a second auction of the metals totaling 170,000 tons would take place by the end of this month along with more efforts to stabilize prices.

The government does not publicize the size of its reserves, making it difficult to evaluate its ability to continue the releases or the longer-term effects on the markets.

Fluctuation

China's top planning agency, the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC), said that regulators would sell metal reserves "in multiple batches as needed in light of market price changes," Xinhua reported.

On July 19, the NDRC said it would "closely monitor" price changes and futures trading to "maintain market order," and crack down on violations such as hoarding, according to the official English-language China Daily.

Days earlier, the agency said it would release more than 10 million tons of coal from state reserves for the fifth time this year to meet peak summer demand and ease shortages, Reuters reported.

Last month, the commission also issued new rules for publishers of commodity indexes in an apparent effort to discourage the reporting of price increases and inventory levels.

"According to the regulation, authorities can conduct compliance reviews and take disciplinary measures for non- compliance," the NDRC said.

The emergence of price controls follows uncertainty about the uneven pace of economic recovery from the COVID-19 crisis.

While the government has spurred industrial production, helping to drive up raw material prices, retail sales growth has remained relatively restrained.

Despite the argument that a cooling off of commodities would give the government more room to deal with pressures on the economy, the price control tactics are essentially pulling in the opposite direction from China's pro-growth campaign.

"As in the U.S., the Chinese authorities want to talk of 'transitory' price spikes and wish inflation away while pursuing aggressive stimulation," said Gary Hufbauer, senior fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics in Washington.

"My guess is that, by the first quarter of 2022, the contradictions will become too obvious to ignore," Hufbauer said.

Recovery

In recent weeks, China has unveiled a series of measures to keep economic growth on the recovery track despite sporadic outbreaks of the virus around the country and the threat of variants abroad.

In June, China's banks boosted loans by 17 percent from a year before to 2.12 trillion yuan (U.S. $327.7 billion), according to People's Bank of China (PBOC) figures.

On July 9, the PBOC announced it would cut the reserve requirement ratio (RRR) for most banks by one-half of a percentage point, adding 1 trillion yuan (U.S. $154 billion) of liquidity to the economy.

One day earlier, the PBOC said it would remove 24 billion yuan (U.S. $3.7 billion) in transaction fees to help small and micro-sized enterprises, Xinhua reported.

Taken together, the measures stop short of a major stimulus, but the effect is likely to support increased consumption and raw material demand.

While China has been battling back against commodity price hikes and inflation, it has also claimed credit for the effect on first-half trade figures, which exceeded forecasts.

Last week, China's General Administration of Customs (GAC) reported that total trade jumped 27.1 percent in the first half to 18.07 trillion yuan (U.S. $2.79 trillion).

Exports in June climbed 32.2 percent from a year earlier in dollar terms, beating a Reuters forecast of 23.1 percent. Imports climbed 36.7 percent, topping the forecast of 30 percent.

"The surprise surge in exports is probably in large part due to rising commodity prices, as commodities like iron ore soared and price pressures passed on from imports to exports," said Zhou Hao, senior economist for emerging markets at Commerzbank AG, quoted by Bloomberg.

In releasing the trade results, the GAC portrayed inflation as a product not of China's making, despite the effects of China's economic growth and demand.

"The risks of imported inflation are generally controllable in China, though the rise in international bulk commodity prices has pushed up the production costs of enterprises," the GAC said, according to Xinhua.

The positive trade numbers set the stage for China's larger release of economic growth data last week.

In announcing the 7.9-percent growth of gross domestic product in the second quarter, the NBS and state media took pains to highlight the 12.7-percent growth rate of the first half in an attempt to minimize the drop from the record first-quarter rate of 18.3 percent.

Growth rates for trade and GDP are expected to keep declining throughout the year, but the Communist Party tabloid Global Times argued that the signs of slower growth in the second half are "not (a) cause for concern."

The paper quoted a GAC official as warning of the risk of a trade slowdown for reasons beyond China's control.

"At the moment, the COVID-19 epidemic is still spreading in many places around the globe, the trend of the epidemic is complex and trade still faces many uncertain and unstable factors," the official said.

Source : Radio Free Asia More   

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