Faced with China’s most searing heat wave in six decades, factories in the country’s southwest are being forced to close. A severe drought has shrunk rivers, disrupting the region’s supply of water and hydropower and prompting officials to limit electricity to businesses and homes. In two cities, office buildings were ordered to shut off the air conditioning to spare an overextended electrical grid, while elsewhere in southern China local governments urged residents and businesses to conserve energy.
The rolling blackouts and factory shutdowns, which affected Toyota and Foxconn, a supplier for Apple, point to the ways that extreme weather is adding to China’s economic woes. The economy has been headed toward its slowest pace of growth in years, dragged down by the country’s stringent COVID policy of lockdowns, quarantines and travel restrictions, as consumers tightened spending and factories produced less. Youth unemployment has reached a record high, while trouble in the real estate sector has set off an unusual surge of public discontent.