On August 12, 2020, General Secretary Xi Jinping announced the enactment of a new campaign targeting "waste of food." His declaration, along with rising purchases of US farm goods, increased flooding, significant droughts, and insect infestations, indicate that the People's Republic of China (PRC) is facing a considerable food shortage. This is further confirmed by an increase in China's food prices by 11.1% when compared with July of 2019.
Operation Empty Plate
As previously mentioned, General Secretary Xi Jinping has initiated a war on what he calls, "shameful waste." His first action in this campaign was the launch of Operation Empty Plate, which requires restaurants in the PRC to use an N-1 ordering system. N-1 ordering stipulates that a group must order one less dish that the actual number of diners (I.E. 10 people at the table, yet only nine orders of food).
Although Mr. Jinping may truly believe, "waste is shameful and thriftiness is honorable," it is clear to this reporter that the Chinese people do not agree. Comments on the Chinese micro-blogging site Weibo clearly demonstrate that a large swath of citizens are enraged by Beijing's new initiative. The Guardian, a British daily newspaper, recorded the anger of one individual at the political elite, "Can you first limit the dining of officials? Don’t always take away from the people."
Increased Purchases of International Food Goods
Since mid-July, the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) has recorded a significant increase in sales of US food products to the People's Republic of China. This began on July 10, when the PRC purchased a record 1.36 million metric tons of yellow grain. Over the coming weeks, this trend continued, with record purchases of corn, soybeans, soymeal, pork, wheat, and miscellaneous frozen foods by Beijing. These transactions are in-line with other moves by China in the Russian Federation, the European Union, and South America that The Intelligence Ledger has been tracking.
Over the past two months, rain has ruthlessly battered the People's Republic of China. Thus far, there has been roughly $12.5 billion in damage, 2.5 million emergency relocations, and 31,000 homes destroyed or severely damaged. Western media has widely publicized the fact that China's largest infrastructure project, the Three Gorges Dam, is at high risk of failing. Less reported, however, is the impact of flooding on farmers.
According to analysts and statistical data, farms in all thirteen agricultural provinces have been impacted by flooding. China's Ministry of Emergency Management has indicated that roughly 13 million acres of cropland have been compromised, with roughly $21 billion in ruined farmland and related infrastructure. Heavily impacted sectors include wheat and corn, with pork also taking a hard hit.
In late July, Xi toured Jilin Province, a major agricultural region that produces a plurality of the country's corn and soybeans. As CNN Business observed, the General Secretary went out of his way on the list to observe, "There are quite a few disasters this year. I'm concerned about how crops are growing here in the northeast." This, coupled with the statements of other Politburo Standing Committee (PSC). members, indicate that senior leadership in Beijing is extremely worried.
Following severe droughts in 2019, agricultural experts have warned that the PRC may be experiencing dry spells of equally, if not worse proportions. Even China News, a state-owned media company that is notorious for pushing rosy pictures of the PRC, admitted that a drought resulted in almost no harvest in China's Gansu Province.
Adding to the woes of the PRCs farmers, locusts and army worms have decimated hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of crops in Jiangsu, Henan, and Shandong provinces over the course of June and July.
In summary, the People's Republic of China's food security situation is extremely fragile due to floods, droughts, and insects. This combination is forcing Beijing to take noticeable and highly public steps, such as increasing purchases of International goods and restricting meal service. Despite maximum output and record setting purchases, the PRC will still be scrapping the bottom of the barrel due to a low-quality national grain reserve system and an ineffective government structure.
For these reasons, The Intelligence Ledger assesses that although there may not be an immediate starvation crisis, there will be significant issues in the future due to a lack of feed for poultry and livestock. With a significant shortage of meat, the Chinese people will face an unimaginable amount of hardship.