Chinese dictator Xi Jinping surfaced in Anhui province, one of 27 provinces severely affected by floods, last week to inspect the damage.
The state propaganda outlet China Daily praised Xi on Monday for calling for the “integrated development” of the region.
Regions of China sitting on the Yangtze River have been experiencing some of the worst flooding in decades since June, when rains began to cause the river to flood. While the floods caused over 400 rivers to overflow, at nearly 4,000 miles long, the Yangtze is the largest and most destructive river affected. The floods have displaced 63 million people, Reuters noted last week, and caused $26 billion in damages.
According to China Daily, Xi Jinping and his cronies visited Anhui province last week for a tour of disaster-hit areas and to chair a symposium on “integrating” the region.
“Noting that the region should rise to be the trailblazer of China’s technological and industrial innovation, Xi said the entire delta region should not only provide quality products but also serve as a source of high-level technologies to support the country’s high-quality development,” according to the propaganda outlet. “Xi underscored the need to make faster progress in developing the region to a new height of reform and opening-up.”
“Reform and opening-up” is a Communist Party term for profits made from business deals abroad.
“Efforts should be made to improve the business environment in line with world-class standards, and attract talent and enterprises from home and abroad with a development environment which has a high level of openness, services, innovation, and efficiency,” Xi reportedly said.
The coverage of his remarks at the symposium in both China Daily and Xinhua indicated that Xi did not dwell on the widespread flood destruction in the region. Xinhua quoted Xi as calling for “efforts to consolidate the foundation for the green development of the Yangtze River Delta, stressing that priority should be given to the protection and restoration of the Yangtze River’s ecological environment, and measures must be taken to fix prominent environmental problems.” Outside of that remark, however, rebuilding after the floods did not appear to be a significant part of the plan to “integrate” the region.
CGTN, the state’s propaganda television network, published footage of Xi walking through Fuyang city in Anhui, inspecting damage caused by the overflow of the Huaihe River. Xi appears meeting with local Communist Party officials and workers at the Wangjiaba Dam, receiving applause and gifts.
“He also visited and consoled those affected by floods,” the video noted, showing Xi receiving applause from villagers over a dramatic violin instrumental.
Chinese officials have not issued any notice that Xi would make similar trips to other affected areas like Wuhan — a city of 11 million along the Yangtze now known as the origin of the Chinese coronavirus — or sites like the Three Gorges Dam, the largest hydroelectric plant in the world. The reservoir on Three Gorges recorded a depth 20 meters higher than that which triggers its official warning level as recently as last week. Authorities have admitted the floodwaters “distorted” the shape of the dam.
To protect Three Gorges, Chinese officials have admitted to destroying other dams on smaller rivers, also causing flooding into residential areas.
Xi Jinping, the most powerful Chinese president in decades due to his consolidating leadership titles and erasing term limits, has been largely absent from flood response despite the catastrophic impact of the natural disaster on Chinese citizens, their food supply, and their economy. Prior to his visit to Anhui last week, Xi had not offered public condolences for the nearly 200 dead or missing in the floods, while taking time out of his schedule to extend laments to victims of disasters in other countries.
Xi has seldom addressed the floods at all. In July, he ordered Communist Party cadres to “brave challenges” related to flooding and take “more effective flood control measures,” without specifying how, at an event in Beijing. He later urged businessmen to attempt to profit while much of the nation’s industrial belt was underwater.
On Saturday, the state news agency Xinhua published a video titled, “How Xi Leads China’s Battle Against Flood.”
Floods persist elsewhere in the country, now most dramatically affecting Chongqing, a city a little over 800 miles from Anhui. Chinese Premier Li Keqiang, Xi’s second-in-command, visited Chongqing on Sunday.
“Chongqing saw the biggest flood of this year as the water level at the Cuntan station reached 191.55 meters, 0.14 meters higher than the record in 1981, at around 8 a.m. Thursday,” China Daily noted this weekend. “The floods caused an emergency evacuation of 251,000 people and inundated 23,700 shops, but did not lead to deaths, according to the city’s emergency management bureau.”
The floods have caused significant economic devastation in addition to the loss of life and shelter. The Japanese Nikkei reported on Monday that processing plants for industries like rare earth mining and fertilizer production have been underwater for some time, leading to a necessary halt in activity.
“Though authorities have not revealed total economic losses caused by the deluge of rain since June, several companies whose production plants have been submerged have ceased operations,” Nikkei noted.
The floods have also destroyed at least 13 acres of key farmland, according to a report published in mid-August, leading to worries that China may not be able to feed its people if harvests in the fall fail. The Communist Party made its largest-ever purchase of American corn in July, triggering global concern that Beijing fears it does not have enough crops to feed itself.
Adding to speculation is the abrupt launch of a campaign against food waste this month, personally spearheaded by Xi.
“It is necessary to further enhance public awareness of the issue, effectively cultivate thrifty habits and foster a social environment where waste is shameful and thriftiness is applaudable,” state media quoted Xi as saying. “Xi has attached great importance to food security and repeatedly called for promoting the social custom of practicing thrift and opposing waste. He has emphasized the need to stop food waste on many occasions.”
The Global Times, one of China’s most belligerent state propaganda newspapers, insisted following the launch of the campaign that China was not in a “food crisis” and that Xi’s “Clean Plate Campaign” was not related to the floods in any way.
“Despite media hype that China is in a looming food crisis, which is worsened by the epidemic, floods in southern China, and food imports, Chinese agriculturalists said the above factors will not lead to a food crisis in China, but that wasting food is an issue that deserves more attention,” the Global Times claimed.
China Daily predicted favorable harvest yields over 2019, citing Communist Party officials, in a report last week.