The sky across North China turned dark yellow over the weekend as the biggest sandstorm this year offered a grim reminder of the impact of the country's worsening desertification.
Tons of sand carried by winds of up to 100 km/h have affected more than 270 million people in 16 provinces since Friday, covering about 2 million sq km, said meteorological experts. The storm, the worst since January last year, reached Shanghai on Sunday.
Thanks to overgrazing, deforestation, urbanization and drought, deserts now make up more than 16 percent of the country, and scientists say the shifting sands are increasing the risk of sandstorms - the grit from which could travel as far as the western United States.
The Chinese Academy of Sciences estimates that the number of sandstorms has jumped six-fold in the past 50 years to two dozen a year.
Now, why should you care? Well, if the wheels fall off Chinese agriculture, then a Chinese expansion into less gritty areas further south might happen. As well, it will make the Party more intransigent to change and challenge and Taiwan.