The only thing heating up in China is commodity prices

Officially, fuel is up anywhere from 8 to 11% over last year, in China (click for larger image):

China Retail Price Index

Of course these are official statistics – possibly implying they are subject to bias but, more specifically, that they are subject to local temporal and geographical variation. Big variation, sometimes: forget not the death-tainted sale of cooking oil in China, last year.

So, given this story:

Severe snowstorms over broad swaths of eastern and central China have wreaked havoc on traffic throughout the country, creating gigantic passenger backups, spawning accidents and leaving at least 24 people dead, according to state news reports.

In many areas, where snow has continued falling for several days, the accumulation has been described as the heaviest in as many as five decades.

“Due to the rain, snow and frost, plus increased winter use of coal and electricity and the peak travel season, the job of ensuring coal, electricity and oil supplies and adequate transportation has become quite severe,” said Prime Minister Wen Jiabao in a statement issued late Sunday.

Shanghai’s weather is, according to the BBC, not all that bad:

Shanghai weather

But (a) I’m not poor. I live in a rich country, making more than enough money to keep myself in heated (in New York, of course, you’ve no choice. Half the time we’re opening windows to keep from being baked alive: NY apartments represent, for me, exactly why building-wide heating is a daft idea), (b) I live where it’s routinely that cold. I’m prepared, my clothes are appropriate, my diet is appropriate (I can cook) and my buildings are made appropriately.

Shanghai – historically – hasn’t had all that bad a January, to date. At its worst, however, its minima have still been at or above freezing, looking at the last 10 years:

Shanghai history

Nothing that would prepare a people for snap freezes – particularly poorer/rural people with less insulation (or, mid-winter, spare heating/cooking fuel). It will be interesting to see how cooking and heating oil prices do, for the rest of their winter.

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