The OECD has joined the string of global organisations forecasting that China will lead economic growth in 2021 , growing 8% to account for around one-third of the world’s economic recovery next year. The way China has contained the global pandemic, and bounced back economically, has boosted the country’s confidence – at a consumer, business and governmental level.
With China effectively controlling the highly contagious disease, it is now setting its sights higher in efforts to further tame Mother Nature. Last week it announced it was forging ahead with weather modification. Back in 2013, when the China Skinny team sweated as we moved into our new offices during the cruel humidity of Shanghai’s record-setting heatwave, the authorities used cloud seeding to temper the heat. The forced rain – some of the 50 billion tonnes China was creating a year at the time, helped cool the furnace, but also created unearthly Armageddon-come-Greek-Mythology-style-storms that had us wondering about the impacts down the line.
Civilizations have overcome Mother Nature’s challenges throughout history, even at a national level. Egypt’s Aswan High Dam allowed the country to control millennia of flooding that washed down following the deluge in Ethiopia every year. China believes it will have a developed weather modification system by 2025, with breakthroughs in fundamental research and R&D in key technologies.
The modifications plan to create artificial rain and snowfall to areas covering more than 5.5 million square kilometres – more than five times the area of Western Europe – and suppress hail over areas that are in total, larger than France. The announcement follows China’s 2018 launch of its Tianhe project, meaning “river in the sky,” which it hoped to use satellites and rockets to redistribute rain from wet to dry parts of the country.
The coronavirus, African swine fever and natural disasters have recently drawn China’s food security to the fore, and the key role that imports play to feed its 1.4 billion people. Beijing hopes that the weather modification will better secure its food supply by reducing the likelihood of drought, hail and flooding harming food growing areas, in addition to creating additional agricultural land. This, along with the government’s push for smart agriculture, will see China’s one-cow-postage-stamp-farms be replaced by modern, safer and higher yielding producers.
The weather modification will also provide more responses to another challenge increasingly facing China and the world: extreme weather. The deadly floods which plagued China over summer, or fires or droughts are likely to be better controlled by the powers in Beijing. Skiing fans will also be happy to hear that the weather fiddling should also guarantee a good dump of snow at 2022’s Winter Olympics in Beijing.
China’s weather modifications do have their limitations though. The disparity in temperatures across the country which have contributed to China’s economic gravity shifting south, are unlikely to change … for the time-being at least.
Marketers and strategists would be wise to consider meteorology when developing products and plans, as the weather has a significant impact on consumer preferences, behaviour and emotional states across China.
In theory, there is plenty of upside for China by playing Weather God. Yet no one really knows the true risks. As we’ve seen many times before, messing with the balance of earth’s delicate ecosystems often ends in tears. Let’s hope not this time.
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