Ajmal Qureshi: Food Security in China

Written by Ajmal Qureshi, Senior Fellow at Harvard University Asia Center, from Harvard International Review:

At times, one is astonished by how little appreciation there is for the concept of food security in the affluent world. In the midst of plenty, there is a tendency to forget what hunger means and how it afflicts millions of impoverished people in many parts of the world. In the historical famine of 1984-1885 in Ethiopia, also called the Great Famine, about one million people died of starvation and many of those deaths could have been prevented. The Great Famine was the worst of its kind in Ethiopian history. It also left a scar on world history. The rest of the world was criticized for its apathy in not providing sufficient aid in time. Ever since, the issues of hunger, poverty, and malnutrition have stayed on top of the global agenda.

Food Security in the Pre-Reform Era

How has China made it possible to feed its enormous population and ensure continued availability, stability, and access to daily food? The Chinese say that “food is heaven.” Agriculture has over the centuries been China’s sole, limitless industry. Many rituals are woven around harvest, invoking the divine for a bumper crop. Food security continues to occupy center stage in the national socio-economic planning, as the single most delicate issue to Chinese policy makers. It is also extremely sensitive, because any significant changes in China’s agricultural production directly impacts the rest of the world, which remains watchful of China and closely monitors its ability to grow enough food for its population.

August 4, 2008 6:25 AM
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Categories: Economy, Society