China tightens its belt – literally

RASHMEE ROSHAN LALL November 5, 2021

Shortages in the West (especially Britain) are a big and ongoing story but we don’t hear much about the situation in China, where there are growing worries about food and energy supplies.

China’s commerce ministry has been urging local authorities to ensure adequate food supplies and, interestingly, even asking people to stockpile essentials. Vegetables are pricey now – cauliflower and broccoli cost about 50 per more and spinach, was an eye-watering 157 per cent more expensive last month.

Egg and pork are dearer too, and Beijing has asked diners to order wisely – and less – and to report restaurants if they see them wasting food. It’s also advising buffets rather than banquets at official receptions and for companies to hold off from lavish feasts.

At one level, this can be seen as a part of China’s larger campaign to rein in excesses of all sorts. Remember, its state-owned daily’s pronouncements from back in August on online gaming as “opium for the mind”? The authorities subsequently limited online gaming to a few hours for children.

But observers say the theme has deeper echoes of some nameless fears.  The attempt to crack down on overindulgence in food is to run through 2025 and comes after President Xi Jinping’s exhortations to reduce food waste and bolster food security.

It almost sounds like a country tightening its belt and preparing for harder times and for longer than we can imagine.

One has to wonder just what fears wrack China.