The Worst Drought in 50 Years

Northeastern China is suffering from what even the Chinese media are calling “the most severe drought for decades.” Affecting nearly 5 million people to date, the drought also threatens future harvests and has drawn a number of government responses including diverting water from the Yangzi and Yellow Rivers, inducing rain artificially, providing over US $12 billion in subsidies to farmers, and sending Premier Wen Jiabao into the fields with a hose.

What’s more interesting to some people, though, is why this suddenly became a story. A quick search of China Daily‘s archives reveals precious few stories on the drought before a couple days ago, even though today it’s headline news (as it has been for the past few days). What gives? Blogger Black and White Cat is wondering too:

Droughts aren’t like most other kinds of disaster. They don’t usually happen overnight. […] So what about this drought in northern China that finally became news these last few days? It’s supposed to be the worst drought in the region for half a century and it’s suddenly very big news indeed. But, surely, for it to become the worst for 50-odd years, didn’t it have to pass through other “worst since” milestones? Wouldn’t there have been a point when it was the worst for a decade? When did it reach that point? Isn’t something that happens once in a decade news? What about when it became the worst for two decades? Or three? Or four? Who decided that a five-decade record was finally a big enough story to justify reporting it?

Some people might suggest that a problem is only news in China when the government says what splendid job it’s doing dealing with it. But surely not.

Feel free to draw your own conclusions.

Also of interest today:
Wen Jiabao Urges Cambridge to Forgive Shoe Thrower (China Daily, also check out our coverage of the shoe throwing incident)

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