China’s food problem: Issues of system transformation and security in a crisis

Cover Page

Cite item


Against the background of a global decline in food security over the past three to four years, China, remaining the world’s largest food importer, has made notable progress in improving its food security. China’s food security transformation has greatly improved not only the availability but also the affordability of food, as well as the sustainability of the Chinese food system. The increase in agricultural production, including grain production in China, indicates a transition from an extensive development model with high resource dependence to a sustainable intensification model. As a result of rapid economic and social development, the food pattern has changed based on high value foods such as meat, dairy products, fish and fish products. However, there are a number of serious problems in China’s food system. China has insufficient self-sufficiency and high import dependence on a number of food products. New to China’s nutritional challenges are the overweight part of the population and the resulting increasing burden on the health care system. In addition, China’s food losses exceed those of developed countries. The changes that the world economy is undergoing, the influence of non-market factors such as ideology, geopolitics and challenges to the multilateral trade and investment system, can seriously disrupt the global agricultural market and reduce the food security of China, which is heavily dependent on foreign food trade. The transformation of China’s food system is aimed at preventing and eliminating the risks of disruption of food imports, diversifying import sources, reducing the cost of agricultural products through scientific and technological progress and increasing investment in infrastructure, the transition of Chinese agriculture from a strategy of increasing production to improving the quality of products and its security.

About the authors

Elena A. Yakimovich

RUDN University; LLC «GEH Teploenergoremont»

Author for correspondence.
Candidate of Science (In Economics), An assistant of the International Economic Relations Department, Faculty of Economics, RUDN University; Deputy General Director for Economics and Finance of LLC «GEH Teploenergoremont». 6 Miklukho-Maklaya St, Moscow, 117198, Russian Federation; 43, bldg 3, Khersonskaya St, Moscow, 117246, Russian Federation


  1. Chernova, V.Y., Zobov, A.M., Degtereva, E.A., Starostin, V.S., & Andronova, I.V. (2020). Sustainable economy: evaluation of food self-sufficiency in Russia, Entrepreneurship and Sustainability, 7(3), 1541-1554
  2. Cheng, S., Bai, J., Jin, Z., Wang, D., Liu, G., Gao, S., Bao, J., Li, X., Li, R., & Jiang, N. (2017). Reducing food loss and food waste: Some personal reflections. Journal of natural resources, 32, 529-538
  3. Donnellon-May, G. (2022). China’s Focus on Food Security. What Xi Jinping’s latest comments on food security suggest about China’s priorities for 2022. The Diplomat. Retrieved January 16, 2023, from
  4. Donnellon-May, G., & Wang, M. (2021). China’s Evolving Food Security Strategy. The Diplomat. Retrieved January 16, 2023, from
  5. Fan, S. (2021). Economics in food systems. Nat. Food, 2021, 2, 218-219.
  6. Fan, S., & Brzeska, J. (2014). Feeding more people on an increasingly fragile planet: China’s food and nutrition security in a national and global context. Journal of Integrative Agriculture, 13, 1193-1205.
  7. Fan, S., Teng, P., Chew, P., Smith, G., & Copeland, L. (2021). Food system resilience and COVID-19 - Lessons from the Asian experience. Global Food Security, 28, 1-7.
  8. Han, A., Sun, T., Ming, J., Chai, L., & Liao, X. (2017). Are the Chinese Moving toward a Healthy Diet? Evidence from Macro Data from 1961 to 2017. Environmental Research and Public Health, 17(15), 5294.
  9. Jiao, X., He, G., Cui, Z., Shen, J., & Zhang, F. (2018). Agri-environment policy for grain production in China: Toward sustainable intensification. China Agricultural Economic Review, 10(6), 78-92.
  10. Lu, Y., Zhang, Y., Hong, Y., He, L., & Chen, Y. (2022). Experiences and Lessons from Agri-Food System Transformation for Sustainable Food Security: A Review of China’s Practices. Foods, 11(137), 1-15.
  11. Peng, C., & Liu, H. (2020). Agriculture and rural modernization during the 14th Five-Year Plan Period: The situation, problems and countermeasure. Reform, 2, 20-29.
  12. Pereira, L.M., Drimie, S., Maciejewski, K., Tonissen, P.B., & Biggs, R. (2020). Food system transformation integrating a political-economy and social-ecological approach to regime shifts. Environmental Research and Public Health, 17 (1313), 1-20
  13. Tan, X., Liu, X., & Shao, H. Healthy China 2030: A Vision for Health Care. Value Health Reg Issues, 12, 112-114
  14. Van Mierlo, K., Rohmer, S., & Gerdessen, J.C. (2017). A model for composing meat replacers: Reducing the environmental impact of our food consumption pattern while retaining its nutritional value. Journal of Cleaner Production, 165, 930-950
  15. Wang, L, Wang, H, Wang, Z., Jiang, H., Li, W., Wang, S., Hao, L., Zhang, B., & Ding, G. (2021). Interpretation of Healthy Diet Campaign in Healthy China Initiative 2019-2030. China CDC Wkly, 3(16), 346-349
  16. Whiting, K. (2022). Food security: This is how China plans to feed its 1,4 billion people. World Economic Forum. Retrieved February 23, 2023, from agenda/2022/03/china-seawater-rice-food-security/
  17. Xin, L., & Li, P. (2018). Food Consumption Patterns of Chinese Urban and Rural Residents Based on CHNS and Comparison with the Data of National Bureau of Statistics. Journal of Natural Resources, 1(33), 75-84.
  18. Yu, H., Zeng, S., Wang, Q., Dai, J., & Bian, Z. (2021). Forecast on China’s cultivated land protection baseline in the new era by multi-scenario simulations. Resources Science, 6(43), 1222-1233.
  19. Zhan, Y., & Chen, K.Z. (2021). Building resilient food system amidst COVID-19: Responses and lessons from China. Agricultural Systems, 190, 103102.

Copyright (c) 2023 Yakimovich E.A.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.

This website uses cookies

You consent to our cookies if you continue to use our website.

About Cookies