China is a gigantic country with vast natural diversity, vast reserves of fresh water, fertile land that allows for all kinds of crops and animal production. Still, it also has more than 1.4 billion people who need to be fed every day. So what has the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) done, and what is it doing to ensure food for its citizens?
Since 2015 various reasons have led China to drastically reduce its agricultural production, leading to fears and disputes about its ability to guarantee the food sovereignty so proclaimed by the CCP.
Currently, the CCP cannot meet the demand for food products. To solve this problem and temporarily avoid a food crisis, China has no choice but to import large volumes of grain and stockpile in huge quantities. The regime’s strategy has led to the alteration of world food prices.
The issue of food security is a sensitive one in communist China. The sad memory of the Great Famine that hit the country between 1958 and 1962, under the failed Great Leap Forward program promoted by communist dictator Mao Zedong, causing the avoidable death of tens of millions of people, still prevails.
The issue of food security is so sensitive in China that it has become directly linked to the regime’s political stability.
CCP cannot produce the food needed to supply its population
Over the past two decades, China has experienced exponential economic growth to become, according to its figures, the world’s second-largest economy. The development, although uneven, brought with it a considerable increase in demand for foodstuffs. The CCP could not supply such a need if not for the multimillion-dollar imports that enter the country’s ports daily.
The issue of food sovereignty has been, under the Chinese regime, a matter of state. Although it’s highlighted as a banner of communism, the reality is that it has always been a stumbling block for its leaders, who have often been questioned for not resolving the issue correctly.
According to a report by Nature magazine, the value of imports of agricultural products has increased by 78% in dollars in the last 20 years, and imports of beef and pork have also increased considerably, evidencing the strong dependence of the Chinese regime on the international market to feed its citizens.
In a turbulent world in the wake of an unprecedented pandemic that has crippled the global economy, coupled with growing tensions between various powers that threaten world peace, ensuring food security has become an increasingly important policy priority for Beijing’s new development strategy.
Leader Xi Jinping said that “China’s rice bowl must be kept firmly in Chinese hands,” demonstrating the regime’s interest and concern for ensuring food for its citizens, knowing that it is a fundamental pillar for the stability of the CCP’s power.
However, specialists ask themselves why China does not achieve food autonomy despite possessing 10% of the world’s arable land, a vast supply of fresh water, a huge labor force, and sufficient technology available for its application.
There is no single or straightforward answer. However, several drawbacks can be identified, such as corruption, ambition, and clumsiness of CCP policies to deal with the issue.
Arable land is essentially polluted from being used for industrial purposes and by controversial real estate developments, many of them fraudulent and unnecessary.
The swine fever of 2019/2020 destroyed that productive sector and was one of the leading causes of the exponential increase in pork imports from that time to the present.
At the same time, floods and droughts have affected thousands of hectares of fertile land, ruining them, primarily due to the misuse or overuse of the more than 20,000 dams existing in China.
Dams: The main enemy of agricultural production in China
Severe droughts and floods in China’s rural areas have undoubtedly been one of the leading causes limiting overall food production in the Asian country in recent years.
The Chinese regime quickly blamed climate change for environmental disasters that wiped out crops, killed animals, or wholly ruined previously fertile soils.
However, evidence shows a determining factor causing chaos in rural productive areas beyond climate change. More than 20,000 dams created by the Chinese regime high in the mountains are drastically modifying the course of rivers, causing droughts in the wet season and floods in the dry season.
A study published by Eyes on Earth in 2020 uses objective evidence from river flow meters and remote sensing processes to definitively confirm long-standing concerns that soil degradation is related mainly to China’s water management policy.
The report confirmed that the Chinese regime was suddenly releasing the water it had retained in dams during the wet season to produce hydropower during the dry season. As a result, heavy flooding and an unnatural imbalance affect China’s agricultural provinces and neighboring downstream countries.
All these regions experienced severe droughts during the wet season despite the records indicating normal levels of rainfall and snowmelt. It is precisely because the regime authorities decided to block the normal flow of water in the thousands of dams, preventing it from reaching the lower altitude areas.
The Chinese regime treats water flow and hydropower operations as a state secret. This lack of transparency allowed China to establish a victim narrative, arguing that climate change and natural disasters are to blame for the inability to produce the necessary amount of food.
Unnecessary urban projects on arable land
Another factor that is causing an impediment to China’s ability to produce its food is the lack of arable land. And here is another problem associated with the CCP’s mismanagement and corruption in conducting business and making money.
China is currently suffering an unprecedented real estate crisis, affecting the Chinese financial system and impacting the world’s stock markets.
The so-called “real estate bubble” in China is the result of the fact that for years the constant increase in real estate prices led the financial sector to invest in the construction sector. It led to the emergence of huge real estate companies such as Evergrande, which built ceaselessly—not only large buildings, stadiums, and homes—but entire cities financed by domestic and foreign investors tempted by the profitability of the artificial business of selling real estate.
Then, peak demand began to fall at a certain point, while supply continued to increase. When that happens, the bubble bursts. Precisely what is happening in China today!.
Parallel to the regime’s financial crisis, another not minor problem has arisen. According to recent reports, China has more than 65 million empty houses at the moment giving rise to hundreds of “ghost cities,” reported Business Insider magazine in October 2021. The sum of these homes is enough to house the entire population of France.
What relationship is between the housing crisis, ghost towns, and food production? First, the construction of ghost cities and the excessive growth of existing cities have polluted or directly developed in regions of productive soils, which today can no longer be used for agricultural production and are not even suitable for housing people.
In short, the contradictory Chinese communist regime today is responsible for having millions of poor inhabitants living in terrible conditions in rural areas. But, on the other hand, it has encouraged the development of practically empty luxurious cities in regions with productive soils that are now unusable due to artificial urban growth based on speculations. At the same time, it has a massive problem of inability to generate raw food materials, partly due to the lack of arable land.
African swine fever pork crisis
China is the world’s largest consumer and producer of pork, but during 2018 African swine fever entered and created a disaster. The regime’s sanitary policies to combat the disease were ineffective. As a result, the New York Times reported about half of the pigs destined for human consumption died from the virus or were slaughtered.
Logically, pork imports increased sharply, and so did the price of pork.
More than three years have passed since the arrival of the plague in China. However, the solution has not yet arrived, and the problem continues. In March 2021, the new strains of swine fever caused pork imports from China to reach 460,000 tons in a single month, setting a record.
The direct consequence of the price increase is that the Chinese eliminated or significantly reduced their meat consumption. Parallel to the price issue, the regime’s dependence on foreign countries to offer quality meat to its citizens is once again evident.
Impact of Chinese food imports on the world economy
The Chinese regime’s excessive imports of basic grains immediately impact the rest of the world.
China has about 20% of the world’s population and stockpiles more than half the world’s corn, rice, and wheat. Despite being a significant producer of corn, soybeans, and wheat, imports of these commodities over the past five years have grown by two to twelve times, which should be enough to feed its 1.4 billion people.
China has more than doubled its final stocks of cereal products in the last 10 years. Although due to the Chinese regime’s disinformation, it is impossible to know the quantities imported, much less their purpose, its dependence on the external market is evident, as is the impact it has on the world market.
China’s grain hoarding is undoubtedly a factor in the recent rise in grain and food prices. However, there is a fine line between a country that ensures an adequate supply of grains to feed its people and one that hoards excessive amounts of grains in a world where demand is high, and supply is limited.
This situation poses a highly complex scenario. On the one hand, as the world’s largest importer of grain products, the Chinese regime has the power to control market prices to its advantage with great ease. Yet, at the same time, by depending on these imports to feed its population, it demonstrates an enormous weakness in this not minor aspect of its geopolitical structure.
The regime is aware of the seriousness of this dependence and will try to do whatever is necessary to reverse the situation of weakness. In principle, the expansion of the Belt and Road project aims to diversify its suppliers of grains and other essential products to limit dependence on a few producing countries.
Toxic food in China and its relation to the food crisis
Reports indicating severe toxicity cases in China’s food industry are becoming more abundant, perverse, and harmful to health. The issue of toxic food came to light more than a decade ago and is becoming increasingly prevalent in communist China.
The origin of these cases has several causes. Still, in part, it is directly linked to the issue of food sovereignty, which is at the effect of the need to reduce costs, the lack of raw materials, and the consequent need to replace natural products with chemical inputs.
So alarming is the situation with toxic food. The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) warned athletes participating in the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing to “exercise extreme caution” when eating meat in China, as it is likely to be contaminated. In addition, the South China Morning Post reported the steroid Clenbuterol, often called “lean meat powder,” is widely used to force increased muscle mass in pigs and other animals.
A study published in 2015 claims that Clenbuterol has been added to animal feed for decades in China to induce weight gain and increase muscle-to-fat ratios, mainly in pig farming.
Complaints also reported hundreds of thousands of babies with serious pathologies resulting from being fed milk powder and formula contaminated with toxic proteins.
In 2011, Chinese state media reported that 17 noodle manufacturers in Dongguan city, Guangdong province, to reduce costs, had allegedly included industrial dyes and kerosene wax in the manufacture of noodles usually made from sweet potatoes.
In 2013, a Radio Free Asia video went viral, showing how cooking oil is made from the garbage in excruciating detail. As the Washington Post described, “Enterprising men and women will go through dumpsters, trash bins, gutters, and even sewers, scooping out liquid or solid refuse that contains used oil or animal parts. Then they process that into cooking oil, which they sell at below-market rates to food vendors who use it for cooking food that can make you extremely sick.”
The communist regime is aware of this situation, so much so that there are allegations that the party elite consumes privileged foods produced exclusively from selected raw materials.
The Los Angeles Times published a report entitled “In China, what you eat says who you are,” describing the organic farms and exclusive factories that are part of the parallel food system in charge of feeding the CCP elite with quality.
Since high-ranking Chinese officials are exempt from contaminated food, they are less likely to be concerned about the quality of food consumed by the Chinese people. Therefore, food safety inspections are likely ineffective due to official disinterest and corruption.
Xi Jinping recognizes food security issue and takes drastic action
As mentioned above, food security is a highly sensitive issue in China and is directly linked to the political stability of its leaders. While not taking responsibility, Xi Jinping has repeatedly demonstrated his concern for the issue and even taken concrete actions to combat the problem.
In this context, the Chinese leader described the amount of food wastage as “shocking and distressing,” which led him in August 2020 to impose the so-called “Clean Plate Campaign.” The regime began to “raise awareness” among the population on the issue of food waste through the campaign. In addition, it intended to limit the amount of food served in restaurants and catering services and other controversial measures to supposedly limit “overconsumption” and waste.
A 32-page bill introduced in December 2020 includes an article that calls for restaurants to use surveillance technology to monitor excessive food consumption by diners. And it details the application of stiff fines to any dining service deemed to promote overeating.
Shanghai officials encouraged citizens to inform each other if they saw food being wasted. In Heilongjiang province, surveillance cameras were reportedly installed in one district to monitor workers’ leftovers in a “food waste exposure system.” Any worker caught throwing away leftover food three times would be shamed by having their images played on TV screens in canteens, reported South China Morning Post (SCMP).
These initiatives aroused a logical concern among the population, fueled by the fear of the arrival of a new food crisis, boosted by the Wuhan coronavirus pandemic.
Although the regime’s propaganda media tried to calm the mood by playing down what they called “media hype,” it was difficult to reverse society’s fears after Xi Xinping himself said that China must “maintain a sense of crisis over food security.”
Although not admitted by the regime, another obvious strategy to avoid an imminent food crisis is the constant stockpiling of imported grain and other raw materials.
As early as 1990, the Chinese regime decided to establish national grain reserves and has now created a system that coordinates central state reserves with local reserves, thus managing to complement government and corporate inventories to keep greater control over the amount of food available.
In addition, the authorities introduced in 2015 an accountability mechanism combined with detailed evaluation criteria to require all provincial governors to take full responsibility for local food security.
As estimated by the USDA office, China’s corn imports for the 2020-21 marketing year reached a record 28 million tons due to “continued food demand and a supply deficit that supports stock replenishment.”
Along with corn, imports of soybeans and other grains also increased sharply, thus seeking to offset shortages of staple grains such as wheat and rice.
The Chinese regime has a significant weakness in its world domination and expansion strategy, which is precisely its great dependence on foreign countries to feed its millions of citizens. However, this weakness is not the result of China not having the conditions to produce the necessary food, but instead, it was the policies and bad decisions implemented by the CCP regarding several issues that today prevent it from having adequate production capacity.