Can the United States feed China?

Discussion in 'China' started by Ray, Mar 16, 2011.

  1. Ray

    Ray The Chairman Defence Professionals Moderator

    Apr 17, 2009
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    This article raises interesting issues.

    The issue of desertification of China, if the details given that 24,000 villages in the northwestern part of the country have been totally or partially abandoned as sand dunes encroach on cropland. And that millions of Chinese farmers drilling wells to expand their harvests, with water tables are falling under much of the North China Plain, which produces half of the nation’s wheat and a third of its corn, is true, then it sure raises concern.

    Indeed if Chinese agriculture is losing irrigation water to cities and factories and cropland is being sacrificed for residential and industrial construction, including highways and parking lots to accommodate China’s voracious demand for automobiles, it is for the Chinese to have a re-look at the pace of modernisation and take necessary action to balance development with necessary food production. It does cause alarm to note that for every 1 million cars added to this fleet, 50,000 acres are paved over.

    If China’s food supply is tightening and in November, its food price index was up 12 percent from 2009. And the price of vegetables alone was up 62 percent, then it is rather high compared to the rest of the world, which too is facing similar problems.

    If the effort to halt rising food prices, the government had to auctioned corn, wheat, rice and soybeans from state reserves, it does not auger well in the long run. However, China’s buying or leasing land in other countries from Sudan to Indonesia to produce food and biofuels is a step in the right direction even if there is little to show in production from these lands so far. It will take time I presume.

    However, the question that arises is that if the countries where China has bought or leased land are unable to meet their own domestic need, it will cause starvation there or, if the govt in those countries are autocratic with little regards to international norms, they might even nationalise the land and cause problems for China.

    Likewise, if China imports grains from the US as it did when it imported about 2 million tons of U.S. corn and wheat combined in 2010, swamps the U.S. grain market, it will cause the American consumers competing with nearly 1.4 billion foreign consumers for the U.S. grain harvest. This would raise the prices not only of products made directly from grain, such as bread, pasta and breakfast cereals, but also of meat, milk and eggs, which take large quantities of grain to produce. Corn futures have already hit $7 a bushel, up from $2 a bushel five years ago. In that same period, soybean futures climbed from $6 a bushel to $14 a bushel, and cattle and hog futures hit all-time highs. Therefore, the US will be constrained to not export leading to a crisis of sorts in China.

    The crux of the issue for the US is it faces a choice. If the limits grain sales to China, it might the Chinese limit their monthly purchases at Treasury securities auctions. What would happen to farmers who can’t sell to the world’s largest food market? One can’t know how this tension will play out politically, but one does know that the huge deficits of the past 30 years will restrict the US’ bargaining power.
  3. ajtr

    ajtr Veteran Member Veteran Member

    Oct 2, 2009
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    China's 300-year desert battle

    BEIJING - Although government efforts to control desertification in China have been effective, it will take about 300 years to reclaim the land swallowed by deserts at the current rate of progress, a senior official said on Tuesday.

    About 530,000 square kilometers of desert areas in the country can be returned to green land, said Liu Tuo, director of the national bureau to combat desertification under the State Forestry Administration, at a news briefing held by the State Council Information Office.

    However it will take about 300 years to achieve the goal at the current rate of 1,717 sq km a year, Liu added.

    The desertification trend in China has not been completely reversed, although the desertified land area has decreased by 12,454 sq km in the past five years, said Zhu Lieke, deputy head of the administration, on Tuesday.

    Results of monitoring conducted from 2009 to 2010 across the country showed that the net reduction of sandy land was 8,587 sq km in that period.

    However China has 2.6 million sq km of desertified land, which accounts for about 27.3 percent of its total land area.

    In addition, about 18 percent of China's land remains eroded by sand.

    "China is still a country with the largest area of desertified land in the world. As well, about 310,000 sq km are susceptible to desertification," said Zhu.

    Zhu said overgrazing, excessive reclamation, inappropriate use of water resources coupled with scare rainfall have resulted in the expansion of desertified land in the northwest part of Sichuan province and areas in the lower reaches of the Tarim River.

    The ecological pressure from the country's huge population and economic development are still major barriers to halting desertification, Liu said.

    Liu also pointed out that global climate change is another barrier to reversing desertification as more extreme weather, such as drought, leads to degradation of vegetation.

    Thanks to comprehensive measures and consistent efforts, the ecological environment has greatly improved in some key eco-rehabilitation areas, including desertified land in Horqin Grassland and Mu Us Desert in the Inner Mongolia autonomous region, Zhu said.

    Based on a blueprint first unveiled by President Hu Jintao at a United Nations climate summit in September 2009, China will seek to increase its forest coverage by 40 million hectares by 2020 and increase the amount of wood stock by 1.3 billion cubic meters from the level of 2005.

    Zhu said China will try to achieve the above goals through increased investment from all levels of government, application of new technology and more incentives for the public to participate.

    The central authorities will spend 220 billion yuan ($33 billion) in the next decade to protect the natural forests in China, the State Council revealed in December 2010.

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