Are China and Russia Engineering a Global Famine?

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Weaponizing global food supply chains supports both nations’ drive for global dominance

Commentary

Despite significant military setbacks, China remains fully supportive of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The reasons why Beijing does so may vary, but the bottom line is that the two authoritarian nations are working together to reshape the global order.

In other words, Beijing and Moscow have figured out they don’t have to have military bases or a large, blue-water navy to gain influence or even control other nations. All they have to do is control much of the world’s food supply.

In this light, Russia’s Ukraine invasion takes on a different meaning.

Ostensibly, Moscow’s attack on its neighbor was a pushback against NATO encroachment. Whether it was or wasn’t, it does not preclude the possibility of a much grander strategy that involves controlling much of the world’s food supply. In any case, the invasion has put Moscow in a dominant position over global grain supplies.

Before the invasion, Russia and Ukraine produced about one-third of the world’s wheat exports, but not anymore. Russia has destroyed much of Ukraine’s export capacity without even taking control of the wheat fields. It did so by destroying much of Ukraine’s export infrastructure, including ports in the south. Consequently, about 80 percent of Ukraine’s grain exports have stopped or slowed to a trickle.

Ukrainian harvester tractor
Grain is poured from a combine harvester into a tractor in the village of Mala Divytsa, Ukraine, on July 27, 2015. (Sergei Supinsky/AFP via Getty Images)

The impact of the resultant price increases is currently limited to the Middle East, North Africa, and some Asian markets—at least for the moment. But the price effects could spread much further across global markets.

That would seem to put the scope of the invasion in a much broader strategic context.

Russia’s Policy of Famine

Famine as a policy for political and military gain is nothing new for both Moscow and Beijing. Both nations have murdered tens of millions of people and subdued entire regions by famine.

In Russia’s case, Moscow engineered famine against Ukrainians during the Soviet era of the early 1930s, known as the Holodomor. Soviet leader Joseph Stalin imposed his communist ideology upon some of the most productive farmers in the world. With forced collectivization came inefficiencies and severe shortages, all in the service of power for Moscow.

In short, Stalin gained control of the food supply in Ukraine in order to apply famine as a policy. He deliberately starved around 7 million Ukrainians to enforce collectivized farming and suppress nationalism. The continued oppression of the Ukrainian people by the Soviet Russians followed the famine.

This history helps explain the stiff level of resistance of the Ukrainian people against Russia’s current war against them. Ukrainians know what Moscow is capable of and want to avoid a replay of the past.

China’s Famine by Ideology

China, too, has a long history of famine.

Food shortages in communist China in the 20th century were a direct result of forced collectivization and other ideologically-driven policies imposed upon the people by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP).

Like Stalin’s forced collectivization of Ukrainian grain producers, Chairman Mao Zedong’s so-called “Great Leap Forward” from 1958 to 1962 also enforced collectivization on farms. Food production, harvesting, and distribution plummeted.

Epoch Times Photo
Employees of the Shin Chiao Hotel in Beijing build a small and rudimentary smelting steel furnace in the hotel courtyard (background) in October 1958 during the period of the “Great Leap Forward” (1958-1962). The ensuing famine cost China some 30 million lives. (Jacuet Francillon/AFP via Getty Images)

This policy resulted in the starvation deaths of more than 30 million people, or 1 out of 20 Chinese. It remains the greatest man-made, completely avoidable disaster in history.

Engineering a Global Famine?

Today, as the war in Ukraine continues, another famine—this time of global proportions—may be in the process of being engineered by both Moscow and Beijing. That Russia and China would attempt to gain such leverage should surprise no one. Both nations are overtly challenging the current world order.

What’s more, the food weaponization equation is as simple as it is powerful. As the world’s largest exporter of wheat and among the world’s top barley exporters, Russia gains from a tighter global grain market and rising prices.

On the other side of that calculus, China also plays an important role as the world’s largest food importer. For one, it’s providing Russia, which is subject to sanctions and trade embargoes from the West, with a much-needed market for its grains.

But that’s only the beginning.

China’s Power Over Food Supplies

China’s growing power to weaponize food supplies has been greatly enhanced by its expansion into the food-producing nations over the past decade or so. Thanks to its significant ownership of agricultural lands in Africa, Latin America, and even in the United States, Beijing can strategically leverage its position as a leading food supplier to the world.

At the same time, China’s policy is one of actually hoarding food. This lowering of food supplies to the rest of the world drives up prices.

In its drive to gain more control over the rest of the world, what would prevent Beijing from simply withholding food from other nations?

Restricting food or other critical commodities—such as natural gas and oil—to influence outcomes is nothing new for Russia or China. Both are intimately familiar with abusing the devastating power of controlling, or more to the point, limiting food supplies to both their own people and their enemies (often the same) in order to achieve their political or military objectives.

And both regimes are run by ruthless tyrants who have global ambitions.

Is it possible that the war in Ukraine isn’t just about a buffer zone against NATO?

Is it reasonable to assume that both Russia and China are coordinating their policies of controlling such a basic need as food in order to expand their power and influence?

Is it probable that more food shortages, not fewer, are in our near future?

All are possible and seem to be the carefully coordinated plan of Moscow and Beijing.

Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.

James Gorrie

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James R. Gorrie is the author of “The China Crisis” (Wiley, 2013) and writes on his blog, TheBananaRepublican.com. He is based in Southern California.



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