China’s Food Silk Road: Who Controls the Crops Controls the Future

Commentary Of all the things in the world, food is one of the few things capable of uniting the masses. A shortage of it, however, has the power to do the very opposite, driving people to the brink of madness. Julian Cribb, a distinguished science writer and author of “The Coming Famine,” warns that a global food shortage is just around the corner. Due to “shortages of water, land, and energy combined with the increased demand from population and economic growth,” the world is ill-prepared for the horrors that await. According to the academic Monica Caparas, the “probability of crop yield failures is projected to be as much as 4.5 times higher by 2030 and up to 25 times higher by 2050 across global breadbaskets.” The most at-risk crops are rice, maize, soybeans, and wheat. Several countries around the world are at significant risk of crop yield failures. China is one of them. Right now, from Guilin to Guangzhou, food shortages exist, and the people are far from happy. Hungry people are dangerous people. In 1906, Alfred Henry Lewis stated, “There are only nine meals between mankind and anarchy.” The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) knows this only too well, hence its desperate attempt to establish some form of food security. Last year, just before the start of the autumn harvest season, Bloomberg published a piece documenting the state of affairs in Jilin, Liaoning, and Heilongjiang provinces, “where about half of China’s corn and soybeans are grown.” China’s interminable energy crisis, warned the authors, was creating another crisis—a food crisis. Combine the country’s energy issues with its significant air pollution problems, and you have a recipe for harvest-driven disaster. That is why the CCP has, for quite some time, been scrambling to form alliances around the world, relying on foreign lands to provide some much-needed sustenance. You’re no doubt aware of China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI, also known as “One Belt, One Road”), a global infrastructure development strategy adopted by the CCP. This road is treacherous, paved with the regrets and tears of heavily indebted countries. Chinese Communist Party leader Xi Jinping (front C), South African President Cyril Ramaphosa (front 3-L), Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi (front L), Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta (2nd row L), Togo’s President Faure Gnassingbé (2nd row C), Malawi’s President Arthur Peter Mutharika (2nd row R), Sierra Leone President Julius Maada Bio (last row L), Liberian President George Weah (last row C), and other African leaders clap during a group photo session during the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) 2018 Beijing Summit in Beijing, China, on Sept. 3, 2018. (How Hwee Young/Pool/Getty Images) But what about the “Food Silk Road,” a Beijing-backed venture that seeks to reshape global food supply chains? This particular road is being financed through agricultural investments around the world, as well as the acquisition of new agricultural technologies. This road starts in China, enters Europe, then penetrates the continent of Africa, passing through cities like Kigali, Lagos, Lomé, and Maputo. The China-Africa Alliance Launched in 2017, the China-Africa Agricultural Cooperation Strategy seeks to “leverage China’s public and private resources (funding, product and technology, knowledge) to catalyze, scale and sustain inclusive agriculture transformation,” according to the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa’s website. Considering 60 percent of the world’s arable land is in Africa, the alliance is a blessing for Beijing. After all, China, home to 19 percent of the world’s population, has just 10 percent of the world’s arable land. The three African countries with the most arable land—Mauritius, Rwanda, and Togo—have received significant investments from Beijing. In January 2021, the China-Mauritius bilateral free-trade agreement (FTA), the first-ever FTA between China and an African state, was signed into effect. Both parties, we’re told, “recognize that agriculture constitutes a core activity for both Parties, and that enhancing this sector can improve quality of life and economic development.” Meanwhile, in Rwanda, China has invested—and continues to invest—heavily in agri-related products and services. In 2020 alone, Chinese companies invested more than $300 million in the landlocked country, with the agriculture sector receiving plenty of attention. In Togo, similar deals are playing out. In the first half of 2021, trade between Togo and China amounted to $380 million. China relies on the above African countries (and others) to import a whole host of food items, from avocados to sesame seeds, chilies to cashews, according to the South China Morning Post. Last December, as the SCMP noted, the CCP pledged to open several “‘green lanes’ for African agricultural products into the country to meet a US$300 billion import target.” A man wears a protective face mask as he works at a vegetable market

China’s Food Silk Road: Who Controls the Crops Controls the Future

Commentary

Of all the things in the world, food is one of the few things capable of uniting the masses. A shortage of it, however, has the power to do the very opposite, driving people to the brink of madness.

Julian Cribb, a distinguished science writer and author of “The Coming Famine,” warns that a global food shortage is just around the corner. Due to “shortages of water, land, and energy combined with the increased demand from population and economic growth,” the world is ill-prepared for the horrors that await.

According to the academic Monica Caparas, the “probability of crop yield failures is projected to be as much as 4.5 times higher by 2030 and up to 25 times higher by 2050 across global breadbaskets.” The most at-risk crops are rice, maize, soybeans, and wheat.

Several countries around the world are at significant risk of crop yield failures. China is one of them.

Right now, from Guilin to Guangzhou, food shortages exist, and the people are far from happy. Hungry people are dangerous people. In 1906, Alfred Henry Lewis stated, “There are only nine meals between mankind and anarchy.” The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) knows this only too well, hence its desperate attempt to establish some form of food security.

Last year, just before the start of the autumn harvest season, Bloomberg published a piece documenting the state of affairs in Jilin, Liaoning, and Heilongjiang provinces, “where about half of China’s corn and soybeans are grown.”

China’s interminable energy crisis, warned the authors, was creating another crisis—a food crisis. Combine the country’s energy issues with its significant air pollution problems, and you have a recipe for harvest-driven disaster. That is why the CCP has, for quite some time, been scrambling to form alliances around the world, relying on foreign lands to provide some much-needed sustenance.

You’re no doubt aware of China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI, also known as “One Belt, One Road”), a global infrastructure development strategy adopted by the CCP. This road is treacherous, paved with the regrets and tears of heavily indebted countries.

Epoch Times Photo
Chinese Communist Party leader Xi Jinping (front C), South African President Cyril Ramaphosa (front 3-L), Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi (front L), Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta (2nd row L), Togo’s President Faure Gnassingbé (2nd row C), Malawi’s President Arthur Peter Mutharika (2nd row R), Sierra Leone President Julius Maada Bio (last row L), Liberian President George Weah (last row C), and other African leaders clap during a group photo session during the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) 2018 Beijing Summit in Beijing, China, on Sept. 3, 2018. (How Hwee Young/Pool/Getty Images)

But what about the “Food Silk Road,” a Beijing-backed venture that seeks to reshape global food supply chains?

This particular road is being financed through agricultural investments around the world, as well as the acquisition of new agricultural technologies. This road starts in China, enters Europe, then penetrates the continent of Africa, passing through cities like Kigali, Lagos, Lomé, and Maputo.

The China-Africa Alliance

Launched in 2017, the China-Africa Agricultural Cooperation Strategy seeks to “leverage China’s public and private resources (funding, product and technology, knowledge) to catalyze, scale and sustain inclusive agriculture transformation,” according to the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa’s website.

Considering 60 percent of the world’s arable land is in Africa, the alliance is a blessing for Beijing. After all, China, home to 19 percent of the world’s population, has just 10 percent of the world’s arable land.

The three African countries with the most arable land—Mauritius, Rwanda, and Togo—have received significant investments from Beijing.

In January 2021, the China-Mauritius bilateral free-trade agreement (FTA), the first-ever FTA between China and an African state, was signed into effect. Both parties, we’re told, “recognize that agriculture constitutes a core activity for both Parties, and that enhancing this sector can improve quality of life and economic development.”

Meanwhile, in Rwanda, China has invested—and continues to invest—heavily in agri-related products and services. In 2020 alone, Chinese companies invested more than $300 million in the landlocked country, with the agriculture sector receiving plenty of attention.

In Togo, similar deals are playing out. In the first half of 2021, trade between Togo and China amounted to $380 million.

China relies on the above African countries (and others) to import a whole host of food items, from avocados to sesame seeds, chilies to cashews, according to the South China Morning Post. Last December, as the SCMP noted, the CCP pledged to open several “‘green lanes’ for African agricultural products into the country to meet a US$300 billion import target.”

Epoch Times Photo
A man wears a protective face mask as he works at a vegetable market in Cyrildene, also known as Johannesburg’s China Town, South Africa, on Feb. 7, 2020. (Luca Sola/AFP via Getty Images)

Between January and July last year, trade volume between China and Africa reached $139.1 billion. China’s reliance on Africa for various fruits and vegetables, as well as nuts and seeds, not to mention its agricultural technologies, cannot be emphasized enough.

Nigeria, the fastest growing country in Africa and home to one of the fastest-growing economies in the world, has become “a salient destination for Chinese manufacturing foreign direct investment,” according to researchers at the International Food Policy Research Institute. The Chinese appear to be particularly interested in “technology transfer” and “technical partnerships between firms.”

Last year, the Chinese ambassador to Nigeria, H.E. Cui Jianchun, said the CCP had identified agriculture as the primary sector for considerable investments. According to Jianchun, “We have already identified four areas to substantially invest in, which are fishing farming, rice, cassava, and plantain cultivation.”

Research published by De Boeck Supérieur outlines how the CCP has been aggressively investing in African agriculture for the best part of 30 years, planning for the day when the country’s farmers can no longer grow enough crops to feed its people. That day is fast approaching.

Will the “Food Silk Road” be enough to avert a crisis of epic proportions? In truth, only time will tell.

Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.


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John Mac Ghlionn is a researcher and essayist. His work has been published by the New York Post, The Sydney Morning Herald, Newsweek, National Review, and The Spectator US, among others. He covers psychology and social relations, and has a keen interest in social dysfunction and media manipulation.