During the pandemic, Americans experienced food shortages due to the impact on the world's vulnerable supply chain. While that situation has somewhat recovered, another global event could make that recent experience the new normal.
Two experts warn a brewing battle between the United States and China over control of the world's food supply could become such an event.
This new war is happening right now – without armies or any shots being fired. It's a global struggle with deadly consequences. Who will dominate the world food supply?
"Food is power. We need to remember that. And this is very dangerous for the United States," warned Kip Tom, former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations for Food and Agriculture.
Tom explained that China is determined to seize control of the African continent. "It's not about the mining and the critical minerals. It's about agricultural productivity," he explained.
Gatestone Institute's China analyst Gordon Chang agrees believes China has a food problem. "It's worsening food shortages, self-sufficiency, percentages for food for China are relentlessly falling," Chang said.
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That's why this year, ports in Shanghai are reportedly on target to receive a quarter of a million tons of food from Africa, valued at more than half a billion dollars. The African Union wants to expand trade with Beijing and gain Chinese innovation to help expand long-term food production.
Current agricultural technology has helped South Africa and Nigeria become the continent's largest food producers.
Ambassador Tom suggested that led to an August visit by Chinese diplomats with Nigerian officials, followed by President Xi Jinping's trip to South Africa for the BRICS Conference.
"The reality is the Chinese Communist Party goes in through every country in Africa investing in infrastructure and other projects and capturing the country's natural resources," Tom explained. "But their ultimate goal is to have Africa be the breadbasket for the country of China to feed their 1.4 billion people."
Chang warns people should be concerned about China's actions in Africa. "We should be worrying about the U.S.," he said.
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A future conflict over Taiwan, or tariffs and trade battles, could place the U.S. food supply at risk.
Threatened regimes often use food as a weapon against their opponents. During the 1990s, the people of South Sudan refused to embrace Islam, and the Khartoum government retaliated by denying them food, causing many to die from starvation.
Chang warns Americans that they should have learned from the COVID-19 pandemic about food scarcity. At the same time U.S. consumers couldn't get meat at grocery stores, the world's top pork producer, Chinese-owned Smithfield Foods, shipped pork to China.
Although Smithfield is not a state-owned company, Chang believes it operated at the behest of the Chinese Communist Party.
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"It had to do what the party wanted," Chang insisted. "It shipped pork to China at the great detriment to the United States. So, we got a problem at home, very close to home."
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China is also taking steps to lessen its reliance on U.S.-grown food. It has turned to Brazil, making it the top exporter of agricultural products to China, providing 20% of the country's food supply.
So, what can be done in the short term to strengthen the food security of the United States?
Ambassador Tom insists the country needs to increase domestic food production and manufacture critical agricultural products like fertilizers and others rather than getting them from adversaries like Russia, Belarus, and China.
"This is a wakeup call, and we could be a food power, and we could use it in a manner that benefits the United States and our friends and allies around the world," he said.
Chang contends China is motivated by the doctrine of tianxia – the belief that the CCP has the right to rule all under heaven and is obligated to do so.
"China is trying to dominate food because it wants to rule the world," he explained. "And so, we've got to understand the context of what is occurring and the significance of what is occurring. And we Americans have not been good at doing that. We just ignore what our enemies say. We ignored Osama bin Laden until 9/11, and we're ignoring the Chinese now."