Panic soars that China is preparing for war as citizens asked to stockpile necessities

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A directive issued by the commerce ministry late on Monday advised people to keep daily necessities in stock. The statement comes after Covid outbreaks and unusually heavy rains that caused a surge in vegetable prices raised concerns about supply shortages.

The directive led to speculation on social media that it may have been triggered by tensions with Taiwan.

However, the Economic Daily, a Communist Party-backed newspaper, told people not to have “too much of an overactive imagination”.

The newspaper added that the directive’s purpose was to make sure citizens were not caught off guard if there was a lockdown in their area.

The BBC’s China correspondent Stephen McDonell said the directive was “getting really blown out of proportion”.

He tweeted: “#China’s Commerce Ministry has caused quite a stir by – for some reason – advising people in a report to ‘stockpile daily necessities’.

“It seems to have been only one sentence in an online statement/work plan.

“The comment is now getting really blown out of proportion.

“There have been conspiracy theories spreading online that this advice is because #Beijing is preparing for war with #Taiwan.

“In the meantime local media outlets have been asking people to calm down and not exaggerate this.

“Recent extreme weather events have hit crops in #China.

“This has had an impact on supply chains leading to the price of certain vegetables to double.

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“Now fears that #coronavirus restrictions in the coming months could hit supply chains reducing the availability of certain produce.”

The directive comes after extreme weather in early October destroyed crops in Shandong, which is China’s biggest vegetable growing region.

And coronavirus outbreaks stretching from the northwest to the northeast of the country are threatening to disrupt food supplies.

Last week, the prices of cucumbers, spinach and broccoli had more than doubled from early October.

The commerce ministry’s directive also urged local authorities to work to ensure stable prices and to give early warnings of any supply problems.

China plans to release vegetable reserves “at an appropriate time” to counter rising prices, according to a state TV report.

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