Since summer began, scenes of devastation and misery have been playing out across China as the world’s most populous nation grapples with an unrelenting torrent of extreme weather emergencies.
Scientists have been warning for years that the climate crisis would amplify extreme weather, making it deadlier and more frequent.
Now, like much of the world, China is reeling from its impact.
Since the country’s rainy season started in May,
heavy rainstorms have brought severe flooding and landslides to large swathes of southern China, killing dozens of people, displacing millions and causing economic losses running into billions of yuan.
In June, extreme rainfall broke “historical records” in coastal Fujian province, as well as parts of Guangdong and Guangxi provinces. At the same time, a sweltering heat wave began to envelop northern China,
pushing temperatures over 40 degrees Celsius (104 Fahrenheit).
That heat wave has now engulfed half the country, affecting more than 900 million people — or about 64% of the population. All but two northeastern provinces in China have issued high-temperature warnings, with 84 cities issuing their highest-level red alerts last Wednesday.
In recent weeks, a total of 71 national
weather stations across China have logged temperatures that smashed historical records. Four cities — three in the central province of Hebei and one in Yunnan in the southwest — saw temperatures reaching 44 degrees Celsius (111 Fahrenheit), according to the National Climate Center.
China has vowed to annex Taiwan by force if necessary, and has advertised that threat by flying warplanes near Taiwanese airspace and holding military exercises based on invasion scenarios. It says those actions are aimed at deterring advocates of the island’s formal independence and foreign allies – principally the U.S.
– from coming to its aid, more than 70 years after the sides split amid civil war.
A visit by Pelosi would “severely undermine China’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, gravely impact the foundation of China-U.S. relations and send a seriously wrong signal to Taiwan independence forces,” Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijiang said at a daily briefing.
“If the U.S. were to insist on going down the wrong path, China will take resolute and strong measures to safeguard its sovereignty and territorial integrity,” Zhao said.
White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre declined to comment on Pelosi’s expected visit to Taiwan. Jean-Pierre said the United States’ support for Taiwan remained “rock solid,” while reiterating the U.S. longstanding commitment to the “One China” policy that recognizes Beijing as the government of China but allows informal relations and defense ties with Taipei.
The stifling heat has coincided with a surge in Covid
cases, making government mandated mass testing all the more excruciating for residents — including the elderly — who must wait in long lines under the sun. It has also become a dangerous task for health workers who, as part of the government’s ‘zero-Covid’ policy, are required to spend long hours outdoors covered head to toe in airtight PPE equipment as they administer the tests.
Several videos of Covid workers collapsing on the ground from heatstroke have gone viral on social media.
The heat wave has also caused power shortages in some regions and hit the country’s crop production, threatening to further push up food prices.
And the worst might be still to come, according to Yao Wenguang, a Ministry of Water Resources official overseeing flood and drought prevention.
“It is predicted that from July to August, there will be more extreme weather events in China, and regional flood conditions and drought conditions will be heavier than usual,” Yao told Xinhua News Agency last month.
Counting the costs
China is a “sensitive area” that has been significantly affected by global climate change, with temperatures rising faster than the global average, according to the country’s latest Blue Book on Climate Change, published by the China Meteorological Administration last August.
Between 1951 and 2020, China’s annual average surface temperature was rising at a pace of 0.26 degrees Celsius per decade, the report said. Sea levels around China’s coastlines rose faster than the global average from 1980 to 2020, according to the report.
The changing climate can make extreme weather events — such as summer floods, which China has grappled with for centuries — more frequent and intense, said Johnny Chan, an emeritus professor of atmospheric science at the City University of Hong Kong.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s dismissal of senior officials is casting an inconvenient light on an issue that the Biden administration has largely ignored since the outbreak of war with Russia: Ukraine’s history of rampant corruption and shaky governance.
As it presses ahead with providing tens of billions of dollars in military, economic and direct financial support aid to Ukraine and encourages its allies to do the same, the Biden administration is now once again grappling with longstanding worries about Ukraine’s suitability as a recipient of massive infusions of American aid.
Those issues, which date back decades and were not an insignificant part of former President Donald Trump’s first impeachment, had been largely pushed to the back burner in the immediate run-up to Russia’s invasion and during the first months of the conflict as the U.S. and its partners rallied to Ukraine’s defense.
Yet even as Russian troops were massing near the Ukrainian border last fall, the Biden administration was pushing Zelenskyy to do more to act on corruption — a perennial U.S. demand going back to Ukraine’s early days of independence.
“In all of our relationships, and including in this relationship, we invest not in personalities; we invest in institutions, and, of course, President Zelenskyy has spoken to his rationale for making these personnel shifts,” State Department spokesman Ned Price told reporters on Monday.
Price declined to comment further on Zelenskyy’s reasoning for the dismissals or address the specifics but said there was no question that Russia has been trying to interfere in Ukraine.
“Moscow has long sought to subvert, to destabilize the Ukrainian government,” Price said. “Ever since Ukraine chose the path of democracy and a Western orientation this has been something that Moscow has sought to subvert.”
Still, in October and then again in December 2021, as the U.S. and others were warning of the increasing potential for a Russian invasion, the Biden administration was calling out Zelenskyy’s government for inaction on corruption that had little or nothing to do with Russia.
Prime Minister and Acting President Ranil Wickremesinghe, who has been the face of the government’s handling of the economic crisis, will face a hefty challenge after late support swelled for his main rival.
Dullas Alahapperuma, a former government minister and spokesman, was nominated by a breakaway faction of the ruling coalition, and ethnic minority parties also said they’ll support him. Marxist party leader Anura Dissanayake was also expected to run.
The winner will serve the remainder of Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s term that ends in 2024. Rajapaksa fled the country and resigned by email last week after protesters furious over the country’s economic collapse stormed his official residence and took over key state buildings.