Ominous notes are being posted in China as its 1.4 billion people brace for their biggest power crisis in more than a decade. “Expect power cuts in the building. We don’t know when,” says one. “Whoever is in the lifts will be trapped. Don’t panic! Press the SOS button. If the line is busy, don’t panic!” That note was posted in recent days in an apartment building in Shenyang, the capital of Liaoning province. In neighbouring Jilin province, a state-owned utility warned customers that because of the demands on the national electricity grid, there would be “unscheduled, unpredictable, unplanned and unannounced power outages”. Similar warnings are being issued across much of the world’s second-largest economy. Videos shared on social media show families trapped in elevators.
Another depicts hundreds of vehicles stuck in the dark on a highway after traffic lights were turned off. Local authorities said it was necessary “to avoid the collapse of the entire grid”. Twenty of China’s 31 provincial jurisdictions are now rationing power, according to state media. The root of the problem is a lack of thermal coal, the price of which has rocketed as global demand has spiked. Nearly 60 per cent of China’s economy is powered by coal. This is China’s second major power crisis since the black-listing of Australian coal. The first one happened last winter, around six months after China stopped clearing Australian coal at Customs. Power cuts were part of Beijing’s cunning plan to “shock” Australia by reducing coal prices and to send “export inflation” to the US and Europe. The tactic appears to have backfired against the Chinese Government.
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