The real danger behind China's big winter storm

The headlines scream about a big snowstorm in China, but most Americans' awareness is limited to what's on either Drudge or Headline News.  Check in with the BBC, however, and the scope becomes breathtaking — up to and including the prospect of months-long food shortages:

China is struggling to cope with its worst snowfall
in decades, with officials warning of future food shortages as winter
crops are wrecked.

The government is trying to convince people the
situation is under control – praising officials and naming three men
who died as "revolutionary martyrs".

But forecasters are warning of more snow and urging people not to travel.

The bad weather has affected millions of Chinese keen to return to their home villages over the New Year holiday.

Dozens are thought to have died as much of the country endures one of its harshest winters for half a century.

Communist Party official Chen Xiwen warned of a serious impact on crop production in the south of the country.

"The impact on fresh vegetables and on fruit in some places has been catastrophic," he said.

"If it heads northward, then the impact on the whole year's grain production will be noticeable."

Analysts say the destruction of crops will drive up food
prices and fuel inflation, which has already risen rapidly over the
past year.

In the face of such disaster, American-style demonstrations of empathy by political leaders are doing little:

And on Wednesday, Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao visited
travellers stranded in the southern city of Guangzhou to apologise for
the delays.

More than half a million people, many of them migrant
workers, have been unable to leave the city for the Lunar New Year
holiday because of a blocked train line.

Scuffles were reported as frustrated travellers fought for seats on the few trains that did depart from the station.

Some travellers were unconvinced by Mr Wen's visit.

"It's nice to know that the state is thinking about us,
but I am not optimistic," one would-be traveller, Quan, told Reuters
news agency.

Were China less of an authoritarian society, I suspect that would-be traveller would have been a little more vociferous.  

From a PR standpoint, this doesn't exactly make China look like a 21st Century juggernaut seven months before the Olympics.  Then again, memories are short these days.