Nearly half of
President Hu Jintao and Premier Wen Jiabao ordered all-out efforts to fight the drought, allocating 400m yuan ($58m, £40m) in relief assistance.
The Chinese authorities say the current drought is expected to continue as no rain has been forecast in the affected areas for at least 10 days.
The Chinese leaders' decision was announced at a State Council meeting, according to the Xinhua news agency.
Government efforts should be directed at stabilising grain production, increasing farmers' income and ensuring agricultural production, the Council said.
The agriculture ministry says it is on red alert.
Eight wheat-growing regions -
The official China Daily newspaper, citing meteorological authorities, said
A poor harvest in the summer would mean even less income for the farmers. The government is worried that this will dent its effort to stimulate consumer spending in rural areas, making it harder to maintain social stability, he says.