One thing China has been proud of is the ability to produce enough food to feed its people.
For millennia, China has managed to avoid widespread famine except during Mao’s Great Leap Forward when millions starved to death due to “bad” political decisions based on ideology instead of reason. After Mao died, Deng Xiaoping would return the country to reason.
To deal with the threat of widespread drought and famine, China’s Emperors started construction of the Grand Canal around 500 BC.
Other emperors improved methods of agriculture and added to the canal.
Today the fear of famine has returned. Although China currently has more than enough food to feed its growing population, for the first time in history, China has to import some foods from Europe, Africa, Australia, South America and the United States.
In fact, Freakonomics says, “China gave up any pretense of being self-sufficient in soybean production a long time ago and is now the world’s largest soybean importer.”
China is largely sufficient in growing grain, so it is a net exporter of grains. However, it has to import other products like sugar, oil seeds and vegetable oil.
Some high quality convenience food items such as butter and cheese are also imported in small quantities.
In 2008, China Daily (Xinhua) reported that imported foods to China would total 1 trillion yuan or 147 million US dollars in the next five years.
As China’s population continues to grow and food demand outpaces domestic food production, the fear of famine and political blackmail from countries that import food to China will grow.
Since China’s centeral government does not want to depend on other nations, this is a sensitive area.
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