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Oct 15, 2020
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China responds to growing food threat "operation clean plates"

The material on the true meaning of what is happening outside our country was provided by the Katehon Analytical Group.

Causes and prerequisites

What are the prerequisites for exacerbating this issue? At the outset, the author points out a number of reasons for this: “It was not the best year for China. The economy experienced a 6.8% recession in the first quarter, followed by a 3.2% rebound (anemic by Chinese standards) in Q2 Relations with the United States remain tense and difficult, and heavy rains have caused massive flooding that cost China billions of dollars, washing away factories, homes and farmland in a frothy wave of destruction. 20% of the world's population, it has just over 12% of its arable land (according to the World Bank) Heavy rains and floods are bad enough; add to this the resurgence of African swine fever in parts of southern China, and food security will be so acute it's worth watching. "

“The scale of the food security challenge facing China is complex and involves a variety of factors,” McDonald continues. “Although China has significant reserves of corn, rice and wheat, it still depends on imports of soybeans and suffers from a shortage of pork, a traditional food. African swine fever led to a massive culling of pig herds in China in 2019, and the 2020 floods have crippled recovery efforts. Although China has diversified its soybean sources (including producers such as Brazil and Argentina), it is still dependent on imports.

For these and other reasons, inflation also gained additional growth in China: “Consumer inflation in China accelerated to 2.7% in July from 2.5% in June, boosted by rising food prices. This pressure was caused by supply-side problems. which were especially evident in the prices of pork and eggs. Called "flying pigs" and "flying eggs", these are two socially sensitive foods that are undoubtedly of concern to the government. "

- One of the main promises made by the Communist Party to the Chinese people was abundant food. It can be argued that the Communist Party included food on the table, personal safety and a place to live in the foundations of its program, the author recalls and summarizes. “It now signals that food could be a problem in the future.

Key region

The negative events of this year also added to the overall not very happy picture: "Floods in the Yangtze River basin, which is the source of most of China's rice, affected production and transportation and left behind a significant amount of land under water. According to the General Administration of Customs of China, grain imports increased 22.7% from January to July to 74.51 million tonnes compared to the same period in 2019. Imports of wheat and corn increased significantly over the same period. Importance of grain imports is likely to remain throughout the year ".

Harvesting rice in the Yangtze River Basin. Photo: Huang Xiaobang / Globallookpress

The Yangtze basin is not given by the author by chance. In many respects, it is key to the Chinese economy: "The Yangtze River Economic Belt is both China's strength and weakness. The area is home to more than 40% of China's population (about 600 million people) and accounts for almost 50% of the value. exports and 45% of GDP (according to China Water Risk). As noted by Anjani Trivedi of Bloomberg, “the region itself could become the third largest economy in the world.” You can say that how the economic belt of the Yangtze River behaves and China. Population growth and excessive urbanization are making this region increasingly vulnerable to flooding. "

Historical traditions and management problems

According to the researcher, this is not the first time that China has faced such a situation and has developed the already familiar "operandi mode" to respond to such threats: "China's more aggressive diplomacy is a" warrior-wolf ", reflected in Beijing's aggressive actions along the Indian border, the South China Sea, and tensions with three of its most important food suppliers (Australia, the US and Canada) may be part of an effort to divert attention from domestic issues such as food insecurity, a tactic used by Mao in 1962 after the Great Famine to distract attention from internal issues to borders While China's stubborn intervention on the Indian border attracted attention, the August 26 decision to launch four ballistic missiles from the South China Sea, dubbed the "Carrier Killer" or "Guam Killer", has raised tensions with United States, but also follows the pattern long used by Mao to create ь problems outside the country, solving internal ones. "

It is possible that the Chinese leader will use another tool:

There is also the looming possibility that Xi is about to launch a new purge of the party in anticipation of a more difficult economic situation in the future, as well as to prevent growing disagreement within the party over his policies. Indeed, there is talk of a rectification campaign, the tactics that Mao used to purge his enemies within the party.

Compounding the situation, McDonald said, is the country's structured governance, “which makes it difficult for actors at the bottom of the pyramid of power to quickly signal problems up the chain of command. The COVID-19 outbreak in Wuhan was all indicative of this: which was beyond their capacity, while suppressing information, suppressing any debate about political options and delaying the moment until key news reached the top of the hierarchy. "

They went the other way - "clean plates operation"

However, there is no immediate threat of an aggravated food supply right now: “Despite the bleak short-term outlook, China is not heading for hunger; at least not now… On August 17, 2020, the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences noted that“ there is no need to worry ”when it comes to the country has enough food, but she also warned that if major agricultural reforms are not implemented, China could face "food shortages" by 2025.

Xi Jinping launched an initiative to combat food waste by the Chinese population. Photo: Ju Peng / Globallookpress

However, the Chinese would not be Chinese if they did not try to eliminate still promising threats. That is why, the author continues, "Chinese President Xi Jinping launched a new Operation Clean Plates initiative in August to combat waste of food in China."

The Chinese government puts pressure on its population (shaming people for eating too much and becoming gluttonous) to preserve food supplies, make the Chinese people think of food as a precious commodity, and set the stage, if necessary, for harsher measures. to ensure food supplies.

“The rationale behind Xi’s initiative is to get smarter about food consumption. Simply put, the more China is forced to import food, the more it depends on other countries, the author emphasizes. - If food is put into service, China's growing dependence on food imports could reduce its ability to pursue certain policies, for example, strengthen its position in the South China Sea and control Hong Kong. It could also put pressure on food prices, which the Communist Party believes was one of the factors that helped spark the 1989 Tiananmen Square demonstrations.

And he concludes that "given the history of China, the ruling party and Xi Jinping should be concerned" because "people can vote with their wallets, but more often than not they rebel with their stomachs."

The material on the true meaning of what is happening outside our country was provided by the Katehon Analytical Group.

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