China's struggle with soil pollution and degradation amplifies corn, soybean imports

"In China, food safety is threatened by an increasingly opaque political system." That's a daring headline for any Chinese writer to publish. But Yanzhong Huang published this criticism today in the South China Morning Post, a newspaper circulated widely in China. 

January 10, 2021 — Yanzhong hits Chinese authorities hard: "The task of improving what goes on the table is hampered by a system hungry to cling to power."

China's booming imports of corn, soybeans and wheat from the U.S. and other suppliers exposes part of the Communist party's problem of raising enough food. The essay by Yanzhong also describes serious health issues arising from soils polluted with pesticides, heavy metals and other toxic chemicals. 

He notes that members of the Communist party, military and wealthy elite dine on the finest organic foods delivered through exclusive channels.

Average factory workers and poor rural families subsist on rice, vegetables, meat and seafood of questionable nutritional value and safety. In August, President Xi Jinping launched a new "Clean Plate" campaign aimed at convincing Chinese people to avoid wasting food. One of Xi's previous food campaigns in 2013 cracked down on Communist officials who flaunted lavish parties and feasts, heating resentment among ordinary citizens.

Soil degradation, food contamination during processing, and declining nutrient content from heavy artificial fertilizer use remain a systemic challenge across China. Xi Jinping's short-term answer is tougher environmental and food safety regulations. China's long-term answer is expanding control over multiple sources for imported food, especially in Latin America and Africa as well as neighboring Asian nations. 

We recommend that you follow the link to the South China Morning Post, and read Yanzhong Huang's insights. Typically, the South China Morning Post allows you free access a few times before restricting part of its reports and asking you for a subscription.