Self Sufficiency Still Important to China When it Comes to Food

Published on Author maxstadts14

An article from the October 26th Economist writes about the notion that China still feels uncomfortable not producing its own food as discussed in class.  It cites that “old thinking dies hard”, and the connection of the not yet distant memories tens of thousands starving due to great famine in the early 1960s.  While China’s neighbors Japan and South Korea both import 73% of their grain, China officially provides 95% of its grain through domestic production.  However, soybeans are not included in the Chinese government definition of grain.  China imports 58 tons of soybeans from countries like Brazil and America.  This number is only expected to rise, reaching 90 tons by 2030, and the meat industry is likely to rely on the soybeans as feed by that time.

Perhaps the importance attached to producing their own grain in China comes from lingering loyalties to Mao and his policies, or memories of the famine, but another may be the concern that dependence on imports for food may make China weak in wartime as enemies could use food embargos as a weapon against China.  Despite these fears, it is clear that China would benefit from opening up to importing grain, as today, only 2% of export revenue would meet domestic shortfalls of grain production.  But fear lingers.

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5 Responses to Self Sufficiency Still Important to China When it Comes to Food

  1. Like we talked about in class, since population is so great, the fact that they are so dependent on other countries for food can be problematic. Hopefully since population is aging and not growing too much, this won’t hurt too many people. You would think that because Chinese people have seen so much famine, they would be more thoughtful about feeding their population.

  2. I think that the issue raised in this article is more that China is trying too hard to not be dependent on other countries for food, and rather than utilize comparative advantage from trade to import food, are insisting to grow an inefficiently high proportion themselves as a result of memories from the famine among other reasons.

  3. History impacting decisions can be seen in many cultures. American who lived during the Pearl Harbor Japanese bombings still generally negatively view Japan while our generation has no such lingering hatred. As China’s elderly die off newer generations will only remember prosperity and increased incomes compared to their parents. China understands comparative advantage. Comparative advantage appears in the lowered labor wages manufacturers pay compared with their American counterparts. Yet, not all politicians make policies based on economic theory.

  4. In an international diplomacy context, needing food imports from other countries can put you at their mercy. Self sufficiency isn’t always the most economically efficient path, but politically this could be the easiest. I do remember an Economist article from a few years ago discussing Chinese “colonial” ambitions. I think increased food imports will be from countries they do not see as rivals, aka not the United States.

  5. The notion that “old thinking dies hard” seems to me to be especially true in China, more so than maybe other countries. While writing my term paper on marketing in China, the old habits of the Cultural Revolution came up over and over again in the research. The Chinese market has a really hard time wrapping its mind around purchasing products simply for luxury or for a certain lifestyle rather than for utility and utility alone. You would think that as soon as the Cultural Revolution ended, the Chinese people would rush to catch up with the rest of the world in all they had been missing out on. However, they are still reluctant to buy into Western consumerist ideals to this day.