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War in the Taiwan Strait? Emergency Drill for Blackout in Fujian

Lucy Crawford
Born and raised in China, Lucy Crawford has been living in Canada for over 20 years. She has great sympathy for Chinese and human suffering in general. With a Master's degree in Education and having worked on various professions, she now translates and writes about stories in ancient and modern China. She lives in Calgary with her husband and four children.
Published: December 4, 2021
Fujian province held a "2021 emergency drill for large-scale power outages", which aroused public concern. ((Image: Dianne Manson/Getty Images)

On Nov. 30, Fujian Province in China held a “2021 emergency drill for large-scale blackout”, triggering public speculation. Is it a signal of war or an indicator of a real power shortage in the province?

According to the Fujian Daily News, the drill was jointly held by four cities and various provincial agencies. More than 200 people participated.

The drill was said to have included four stages: surveillance and alert, activation of response, management and rescue, and end of the response.  It involved specific programs including the island blackout rescue, hazardous chemical enterprise blackout emergency management, counter-terrorism, and cyber-attack emergency management.

In recent years and months, tensions between mainland China and Taiwan continue to grow. This drill has raised concerns about war with Taiwan.

Since early November, mainland officials have made several unusual moves. The Ministry of Commerce sent out a notice encouraging people to stock up on necessities, and it was circulated online that the People’s Armed Forces Department had sent a recall message to reservist veterans, which was speculated to be a sign of war across the Taiwan Strait, although the mainland media denied it.

However, some analysts believe that China is undergoing massive power cuts and restrictions. Fujian is no exception. The emergency drill could be an indicator of a real power shortage in the province.

On Sep. 29, Fujian Daily reported that since September 2021, Fujian Province has been experiencing high growth in electricity consumption and temporary shortages in power supply.

The power generation capacity of thermal power and hydropower is severely limited by the high temperature and high electricity consumption, as well as the tight coal supply, the incoming water shortage, a rare drought, and the long time high load operation of the units. 

Starting from Sept. 28, Fujian Province launched an orderly staged electricity consumption. The city of Quanzhou in Fujian Province followed up immediately the next day.  On Sept. 29, the Quanzhou Power Supply Company announced a proposal to limit power consumption. 

It is as detailed as to strictly control the decorative lighting in office buildings, stop operating elevators below the 3rd floor, turn off air conditioners, and use natural light for lighting. 

Industrial enterprises are recommended to stagger production, reduce or stop using high-powered equipment and lighting, and to turn off lighting in corridors and hallways as they go. It’s recommended that families and communities use electricity frugally, use natural light for home lighting, set the temperature of air conditioners at no less than 26℃, and turn off the power when leaving home.

According to China’s National Bureau of Statistics and the State Grid, Fujian Province is one of the 10 provinces that used the most electricity in 2020, and Quanzhou is the top industrial city in Fujian Province and the largest energy consumer.

Most of the online discussion has attributed the energy crunch in China to its restrictions on coal imports from Australia.

The U.S.-based Chinese media outlet, The Epoch Times, reported that in 2020, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) launched a special crackdown on the coal sector in Inner Mongolia, the country’s largest coal producer. Nearly 1,000 people have been arrested in the investigation which was said to go as far back as 20 years. It’s one of the reasons for the sharp drop in domestic coal production.

Australia was China’s largest coal supplier for many years, however, the CCP has banned coal imports from Australia since September 2020 because of the Australian government’s call for an independent investigation into the origin of the Coronavirus. This move has exacerbated the tight supply of power coal in China.