The General alarm over China's worsening drought has spread into the huge southern Kwangtung Province, increasing the threat to party Chairman Hua Kuo-feng's plan for economic recovery.
An official Kwangtung radio broadcast monitored here yesterday said, "The current situation of drought in our province is developing daily, seriously threatening the smooth progress of spring farming. Since November of last year, there has been no heavy rain. Some of the water levels are close to the lowest levels ever recorded.
The drought in usually well-watered Kwangtung, the province of 53 million people that surrounds this British colony, aggravates a severe national water shortage parching at least six northern Chinese provinces.
According to a series of official reports, many on the front pages of Peking newspapers, the drought now affects the provinces of Shansi, Shensi, Honan, Hupei, Hopei, Shangtung and now Kangtung.
The reports indicate that water has been rationed to allow bucket bridages to bring as much as possible out to the fields.
The situation has become a serious that Peking's State Council issued a circular calling for immediate action yesterday.
"At present the drought is extremely severe in areas along the Yellow and Huai Rivers and a number of places in northern China," the New China News Agency quoted the circular as saying. "Many places had no rain or snow for half a year. In some other places, the drought continues to develop. It is greatly threatening the growth of the summer-harvested crops and spring plowing and sowing."
The drought, which Peking has called the worst in at least 28 years, puts unusual pressure on Hua and his government.
He has, in effect, pledged to restore as economy that he said was ravaged by Peking dogmatists, like Mao Tsetung's widow, Chiang Ching, whom Hua purged in October. To make the "proper arrangements for the masses' daily lives," which has become a watchword of his administration, Hua may have to dip into grain reserves or spend precious foreign-exchange funds on overseas grains. A 2-million-metric-ton Australian wheat contract was announced this month.
The official reports on the drought say that 14 million people have been mobilized in Honan and 17.5 million in Shantgtung to bring water from rivers and reservoirs to the wheat fields. Army troops are being assigned to drought work in great numbers, the reports said.
The most severely affected northern crops are the wheat and barley sown during the winter and due to be harvested in June and July. The small shoots now coming out of the ground represent about 50 million of China's total annual grain output of about 285 million metric tons, according to economists here.
In Kwangtung, peasants are working to save the rice seedlings that must be kept in well-watered paddies.
"We must . . . mobilize the masses to carry, store and transport water, resist drought, crash-plant, crash-transplant and protest the rice seedlings," said yesterday's broadcast report of a telephone conference Friday of provincial leaders.
The broadcast said a general headquarters for fighting the drought had been established in the province under the command of a veteran agricultural expert on the provincial party committee, Chang Ken-sheng.