Press "Enter" to skip to content

Why China needs every country

In early 1990, I was asked by a cabinet secretary through a mutual friend to show a foreign visitor the sights of Manila.

The visitor was an executive of the then-largest bank in the world by number of customers, the Farmers Bank of China. Understand that the GDP per capita in purchasing power for the Philippines was about $4,000 (which collapsed because of the 1989 coup attempt) and $1,600 in China. Unlike what is currently expected by visitors, our guest did not get a seat at the head table or a more impressive tour guide.

During our conversations, the gentleman told me that every Chinese government unit and agency had only one objective, and that all policies had to be geared in a single direction—rice self-sufficiency. No one realized that this policy planted some of the seeds of China’s current trade and economic problems. It can be found in the popular Sichuan dish Mapo doufu with ground pork.

In 1959–1961, the Great Chinese Famine killed millions through starvation, an event so catastrophic that it reinforced the importance of rice cultivation self-sufficiency. Commentators with the “China good; Trump bad” narrative like to point out how China raised 500 million people out of extreme poverty, which is true. However, it was due in large part to rice self-sufficiency.

Breaking News: