Chinese officials from the Ministry of Commerce (MOFCOM), East China’s Jiangsu and Shandong Provinces on Tuesday offered clarification after official notices about stocking up on daily necessities and recommended household emergency supplies sparked widespread speculations linking them to the Taiwan question, saying that the notices are part of regular government efforts to help residents prepare for potential emergencies. As tension is running high across the Taiwan Straits with the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) authority on the island and the US recklessly walking a tightrope near the red line drawn by the Chinese mainland, some on social media associated the official calls for emergency preparation with the current tense situation across the Taiwan Straits, with some even speculating that the notices could be a sign of potential outbreak of a war across the Taiwan Straits. The speculations started on Tuesday morning, after some social media accounts circulated screenshots of a MOFCOM statement issued on Monday night, which primarily focused on efforts to ensure stable supplies and prices of vegetables and daily necessities during the upcoming winter and spring seasons. But it was one sentence at the end that drew the most attention: “encouraging families to store a certain amount of daily necessities in accordance with their needs to meet daily and emergency needs.”
That sentence quickly went viral on Tuesday morning, especially on social media platforms, with articles linking the suggestion to rising tensions across the Taiwan Straits. Though the announcement did not spark any of the panic buying that has been seen overseas during the onslaught of the COVID-19 pandemic, related topics topped search trends on Sina Weibo on Tuesday. Responding to the speculations, Zhu Xiaoliang, head of the MOFCOM’s Department of Market Operation and Consumption Promotion, said that the notice was intended to ensure stable supplies and prices of food for residents through various measures, including guiding firms in signing supply contracts. “Judging from the current situation, the supply of daily necessities in various places is sufficient and should be fully guaranteed,” Zhu said in an online post.Ensuring market supplies of daily necessities and smooth market operations is one of the major responsibilities of the MOFCOM, and the ministry issues such regular notices to ensure supplies and stabilise prices every year, Guan Lixin, deputy head of the circulation and consumption institute under the MOFCOM, also said earlier on Tuesday.
“This notice was issued based on the frequent natural disasters during the autumn and upcoming winter, soaring vegetable prices, sporadic coronavirus cases and the possible worsening La Nina weather phenomenon. It was arranged in advance. The aim is to better safeguard people’s daily necessities during this winter and next spring,” Guan said. In an article on Tuesday, the official newspaper Economic Daily said that while netizens’ close attention is “understandable,” there is no need for excessive interpretation and anxiety. The article, which drew over 110 million views on Sina Weibo on Tuesday, noted that the ministry’s suggestion was addressing recent COVID-19 flare-ups in China, reminding families to be prepared should they be required to undergo emergency quarantine.