China has enthusiastically taken advantage of the fact that the future of its food supply lies in overseas agricultural investments. What was once a closely guarded policy field, domestic food security, has now become more contingent on how China performs overseas. Beijing has reformed its definition of food security, choosing to enmesh it into its broader grand strategy. The aim is to create a China-centric bloc of economies dependent on Beijing; similar to the old imperial patronage system.
To facilitate this strategy and thus its approach to overseas agricultural investments, China has moved to a “whole supply chain” approach. Whereas some countries may look overseas reluctantly, China has done so with vigour. It has made food security a pivotal part of its two most important mega-projects (the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor and the Belt and Road Initiative). Consequently, China’s quest for food security is a matter of significant national interest and a vital part of President Xi Jinping’s desire to reclaim for China what he sees as its natural place of global pre-eminence. Given that China’s food security intersects with its efforts to fashion its own economic order, failure to achieve the latter, could mean a similar fate for the former.