China’s Record-Breaking Drought Threatens World Economy

Aug 26, 2022

A global drought has dried up rivers and lakes from the western US to China. China is the world’s largest manufacturing power, second largest economy, and most populous nation. Last week, its government issued a nationwide drought alert. The drought’s impact on China could affect the rest of the world, analysts say.

The water levels in China's rivers are very low. Shipping lanes have shut down. Manufacturers have had to stop work. Some hydropower plants don't have enough water to create power. Officials in northern China say the drought is the worst on record. 

A heat wave hasn’t made the drought any better. A record-breaking 74-day heat wave has hit most of the nation of 1.4 billion people. It has often been hotter than 100 degrees. It may be one of the world’s worst heat waves ever, scientists say. 

China’s current water shortage started before the latest drought. The nation has grown a lot over the past 40 years. Most of the growth has been in northern China. That's strained much of the nation’s water capacity. In 2020, the water supply across the North China Plain had fallen roughly 50% under a level defined  as acute water scarcity by the United Nations (UN). 

Two experts said the nation is “on the brink of a water catastrophe.”

“A multiyear drought could … induce global food and industrial materials shortages on a far greater scale than those wrought by the COVID-19 pandemic and the war in Ukraine,” wrote Gabriel Collins and Gopal Reddy in Foreign Affairs. The magazine is published by the Council on Foreign Relations.

China supplies one-fourth of the world’s food. It has nearly a third of the world's manufacturing output. 

Photo from Reuters.

Which of the following ideas is highlighted throughout the article? (Common Core RI.5.3; RI.6.3)
a. the record-breaking heatwave in China
b. the drought in China and its effect on its manufacturing output
c. China’s growing population over the past 40 years
d. global food shortages caused by the war in Ukraine
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