Twenty years ago, environmental advocate Lester Brown got in hot water with Beijing for writing a book called 'Who Will Feed China?'
China was displeased with the suggestion in his book that the country's growing population and water scarcity could drastically burden the world's food resources. Beijing publicly criticized the author -- then began a series of reforms including improving farming techniques and adopting a national policy of self-sufficiency in grain consumption that vindicated Mr. Brown's arguments. It paved the way for a gradual rapprochement with the American, now 80.
Détente is over.
On Wednesday, China's agriculture ministry issued a statement again criticizing Mr. Brown. It took umbrage with an essay he wrote titled 'Can the World Feed China?' a riff on his earlier book. The essay details Mr. Brown's concerns that rising domestic pressures on food consumption could result in spiking food prices and political unrest as China joins in a global 'scramble for food.'
It isn't clear why Mr. Brown was singled out for criticism; many analysts have in one form or other also articulated these trends, though arguably not as directly or pungently. But the move underscores how increasingly sensitive China is to the growing impression that it can't feed itself and that its acquisitions of global food assets are posing a risk to food security for the rest of the world. China has been keen in recent years to head off any impression that it's on a global grab for natural resources.
Mr. Brown wasn't immediately available for comment.
The government is unhappy with the notion it's being blamed for sharpening global competition for food. Mr. Brown's essay said China's rising grain imports mean 'it is competing directly with scores of other grain-importing countries.' He also warned that China's purchase last year of U.S. pork producer Smithfield Foods 'was really a pork security move.' So too, he said, was China's deal with Ukraine to provide $3 billion in loans in exchange for corn. 'Such moves by China exemplify the new geopolitics of food scarcity that affects us all,' he wrote.
Not likely, ministry spokesman Bi Meijia said in the government's statement. Mr. Bi said 97% of China's grain consumption comes from its own output, not imports.
'On the issue of food security, China not only does not pose a threat to the world, but makes a contribution to global food security,' he said. China intends to continue its existing policies, he said.
Mr. Bi said rising grain imports aren't due to domestic shortages, but because global prices are lower than domestic prices. The ministry also pointed out that imports accounted for just 2.6% of domestic grain production volume in 2013, and just 4% of global output.
二十年前，环保倡导人士布朗(Lester Brown)因为撰写《谁来养活中国》(Who Will Feed China?)一书而在中国惹上麻烦。
周三，中国农业部再次发表声明批评布朗，对布朗撰写的《世界能否养活中国》(Can the World Feed China?)一文表示不满。布朗在文中详细谈到，在中国加入全球“抢粮”大潮之际，他对中国国内食品消费压力加大可能推高食品价格、加剧政治不稳定性感到担忧。