Economic changes and government policies are driving millions of China’s migrant workers away from the wealthy coastal regions back to the less developed western regions. The trend is a clear sign that a fundamental change to China’s economy is in progress, as a growth model that lifted more than half a billion people out of poverty starts to slow. From the early 1990s onwards, China’s double-digit GDP growth was fueled largely by the cheap labor provided by people leaving their farms in China’s poorer inland provinces to find work in the factories springing up along the coast. Now this has changed.
Over the past two decades, China’s urban population growth has been higher than in the rest Asia or the world as a whole. Young people are migrating to cities, leaving the elderly and children back home on the farm. So as manufacturing and urban life took off, catapulting China to world-power status, rural China and farming lagged behind. Roughly 86% of farms in China were only 1.6 acres, a tiny fraction of the size of the average 441-acre US industrialized farm and most of the work on these small farms is done by hand by an increasingly elderly population of farmers who now average over 50 years old. But that is starting to change.
Until recently, China had largely fed itself. Yet now the tables have turned, transforming China into the largest food importer in the world. Changing food consumption patterns in China have seen increasing demand for foreign consumer food brands outpaced by even faster growth in demand for imported agricultural products and feed stocks. This has happened despite a continuing stated policy goal of food self-sufficiency. The result has been an evolution in land use within China, greater integration of Chinese state-owned enterprises (SOEs) in global wholesale markets and a subtle shift of emphasis away from self-sufficiency within China, towards prioritizing the security of the Chinese supply chain.
Agriculture in China is still primitive and needs to be modernized quickly. But whose responsibility is that? Wang Liang is a farmer in the northeast province of Heilongjiang, China’s top corn producer. Despite fertile soil, Wang says the small size of his plot limits his crop yield and income. Both took a hit last year […]
You are invited to download the March 2014 issue of CKGSB Magazine. You’ll enjoy articles and interviews like: COVER STORY The Money Matrix: As Chinese consumers show an increasing preference for easy-to-use internet finance, what will happen to traditional banks? SNAPSHOT: China’s Crushing Debt: How serious is China’s local debt problem? A look at the ticking time bomb. […]
Germany’s experiment with bioenergy villages shows that alternative energy sources can spur rural value creation. This has lessons for bioenergy in China. Despite signals of weaker growth of the Chinese economy, China’s appetite for energy is untamed. The International Energy Agency predicts that more than 1,300 GW of power generation will be added until 2035–equaling the capacity of […]
Will political and public opposition to genetically modified food stop China’s market from developing? It’s the Cold War again, only this time the caches are filling with grains, not missiles, and battles are mapped out on wet rice paddies instead of dry plains. At least that’s how People’s Liberation Army Major-General Peng Guangqian seems to […]
With “food security” becoming a buzzword in China’s poliburo, where does the country turn for its most urgent food needs? In October 2013, China’s Ministry of Finance announced it would allocate RMB 600 million to boost food output and China’s food security to meet increased domestic consumption, food price inflation, urbanization and the resulting decline […]
You are invited to download the December issue of CKGSB Magazine. You’ll enjoy articles and interviews like: COVER STORY: 3D printing: Prophets of doom say 3D printing will overturn manufacturing in China. They’re both right and wrong. CHINA INSIGHT: All in the Genes: In just about 14 years of its existence, BGI-Shenzhen has become the world’s […]
As agricultural productivity grows, rural life continues to evolve. Factories, skyscrapers, airports–picture modernity and chances are you’ll think first of an urban landscape, or an industrial wasteland. As for the rural world, everyone knows that’s what modernity ruins: as Henry David Thoreau noted in his journal in 1852, “This winter they are cutting down our […]