China’s agricultural research is at present dominated by the State. Since the establishment of Communist China in 1949, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has linked its legitimacy to progress in the betterment of the agricultural sector. It is therefore easy to see why it still exercises near total control of the direction of the agricultural sector. To rationalise the State’s presence in agricultural research and development (R&D), the CCP has treated R&D as an inherently public good.
Making agriculture a public good implies that the industry is certain to flourish, provided it remains in the hands of the public. State involvement, as opposed to private investment, is the guarantor of agricultural success. The CCP attaches this thinking to R&D investments so that the CCP alone can, for the most part, choose the direction of agricultural research. This opens the industry to a series of challenges. Foreign investment is vital to furthering experimental or strategic fields of research, such as, biotechnology or genetically modified foods (GMOs). A predominantly publicly funded sector tends to focus instead on basic research that involves improving existing practices, rather than on the advancement of knowledge in new areas. Private investment in research in China is rising, but the CCP’s desire to monitor R&D investments may prove a hindrance to furthering Chinese food security.