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.