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High on the hog

While this study has focused on the internal dynamics, it is important to note that China’s contemporary pork industry relies on – and is altering – global resources and markets. With 21 per cent of the world’s population but only 9 per cent of arable land, feeding China’s pigs without starving China’s people has required re-routing international trade, investment and resource flows. In 2014, China imported almost 60 per cent of the total global soybean trade (70 million tonnes) for its livestock feed industry; maize imports are also rising, and the party-state increasingly supports Chinese agribusiness firms to ‘go out’ (zou chuqu) to seek access to land, resources and markets abroad. In terms of ramping up pork production while avoiding widespread hunger, the development model has been successful: although food security remains a focus for the state (and a problem especially for poor rural populations), for those who can afford it, modern life means living high on the hog.

How can you possibly resist a piece that ends like that? It’s from Reforming the Humble Pig: Pigs, Pork and Contemporary China by Mindi Schneider, the final chapter in Animals through Chinese History: Earliest Times to 1911. The whole thing is open access, courtesy of Cambridge University Press.

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