In this file:
· China loves its pork, but prices are rising and that could be a problem
... The Life Times, a newspaper affiliated with the Communist Party, even suggested in a front-page special that eating too much pork was not healthy. “Eat less pork: Both your wallet and your body will thank you,” the publication wrote on Weibo, the Chinese version of Twitter. China’s Internet users were not impressed. “This is modern version of ‘Let them eat cake,’ ” responded Jiang Debin, quoting the line attributed to Marie Antoinette when French peasants ran out of bread shortly before the revolution...
· China offers to make farm purchases as officials prepare for trade talks
China made a peace proposal in a phone call this week with top U.S. trade officials with an offer to buy a modest amount of U.S. agricultural goods, according to two people briefed on the call… But Beijing has informally tied any agricultural purchases to the U.S. treatment of Huawei…
China loves its pork, but prices are rising and that could be a problem
By Anna Fifield, The Washington Post
September 9, 2019
BEIJING — The most pressing political problem facing China’s leaders this week may not be the ongoing protests in Hong Kong. Nor the protracted trade war with the United States.
No, it is probably a shortage of pork — during the Chinese zodiac year of the pig, no less — that has become so severe that the rulers of the Communist Party declared stabilizing pork supply and prices to be an “important political task.”
Chinese love to eat pork. Red fried pork. Sweet-and-sour pork ribs. Glazed pork belly. Twice-cooked pork. Pork dumplings. Trotters. Chinese eat an average of 120 pounds of pork each a year. Half the world’s pork is consumed here.
But with a slew of holidays coming up — starting with this Friday’s mid-autumn festival when families get together and feast — officials are increasingly worried that public discontent will overshadow the celebrations.
They are particularly concerned that pork shortages will ruin the “happy and peaceful atmosphere” required during next month’s commemoration of the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China, the biggest event on the Communist Party’s calendar this year.
“We should ensure pork supply by all means,” Vice Premier Hu Chunhua said at the end of last month, adding that China’s pork shortages would be “extremely severe” in the last quarter of this year and the first half of 2020.
“We must strengthen the guidance and management of public opinion,” he continued, according to a state media account of his remarks.
The party, under the increasingly iron-fisted leadership of Xi Jinping, has tightened security and further stifled criticism in the lead-up to the anniversary on Oct. 1, which will be marked by a huge military parade.
To try to mitigate the shortages, Hu declared that the government would release some of its frozen pork supplies. Yes, just as the United States government holds oil in reserve to release in times of crisis, so too does China stockpile pork.
“As far as the government is concerned, the availability and affordability of food is one of the key metrics people use when answering the question ‘Are you better off now than you were 70 years ago?’ ” said Andrew Polk, an analyst at Trivium China, a Beijing-based consultancy.
“For that reason, the party has a very strong incentive to literally bring home the bacon,” he said...
... The widespread culls led to a sudden spike in pork prices. Even since July, pork prices have shot up by 50 percent, reaching record highs of more than $2.25 a pound and easily surpassing the previous record set in 2016...
... In Xinfadi, the biggest meat market in Beijing, vendors and shoppers alike were downbeat.
Pork prices had risen in August at the fastest pace that Yu, a vendor in her 50s who has worked in the market for about 20 years, could remember.
“This had a big impact on my business,” said Yu, who declined to give her full name. She estimated that the number of customers is down by a third compared with this time last year.
“There are fewer customers now and people cannot afford to buy pork. They say it’s too expensive,” she said.
Shang Jinsheng, a 68-year-old retiree who was shopping in the market, said she was buying only half as much pork as she used to, and buying more seafood instead.
“I used to buy pork every week, now I haven’t bought it for three weeks,” she said...
... In Nanning, near the border with Vietnam, residents can buy pork at a 10 percent discount to the market price. But customers are limited to two pounds of the meat a day, and vendors to selling only one pig’s worth.
The central government has told the provinces they must be pork-self-sufficient. Banks, meanwhile must not only keep lending to hog farms and slaughterhouses, but they should do so at cheap rates.
Still, the government cannot come up with a quick fix...
... To try to make up the shortfall, China’s pork imports are forecast to almost triple this year. China imports most of its pork from European countries, but also gets some from the United States.
That makes the trade war with the United States an added challenge...
... The Life Times, a newspaper affiliated with the Communist Party, even suggested in a front-page special that eating too much pork was not healthy. “Eat less pork: Both your wallet and your body will thank you,” the publication wrote on Weibo, the Chinese version of Twitter.
China’s Internet users were not impressed. “This is modern version of ‘Let them eat cake,’ ” responded Jiang Debin, quoting the line attributed to Marie Antoinette when French peasants ran out of bread shortly before the revolution...
China offers to make farm purchases as officials prepare for trade talks
By Adam Behsudi, POLITICO
China made a peace proposal in a phone call this week with top U.S. trade officials with an offer to buy a modest amount of U.S. agricultural goods, according to two people briefed on the call.
That offer, however, could be contingent on the United States easing up export restrictions on Chinese tech giant Huawei and delaying an Oct. 1 tariff escalation on roughly $250 billion in goods, the people said.
Depending on how negotiations proceed, President Donald Trump is also considering delaying another round of tariffs that will be imposed on Dec. 15 on almost all remaining imports from China, including laptops, smartphones and other consumer goods, the people said.
Political donors and executives from major companies like Wal-Mart made a push two weeks ago hoping to persuade Trump to back off the December round of tariffs, which would severely hurt consumers, one of the people said.
White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow indicated Friday the trade talks are “going to heat up” when Chinese officials come to Washington in the coming weeks. In announcing the meeting, the two governments also said they are hoping for “meaningful progress.”
Deputy-level officials from the U.S. and China are expected to hold discussions in mid-September to prepare for a meeting of top officials in early October.
“I don’t want to predict anything. I’m just saying it is a good thing that they’re coming here, and tempers are calmer now,” Kudlow said on CNBC on Friday. “We’re engaged in very important discussions across the board, whether it’s agriculture or IP or tech transfer or cloud or cyber-hacking or trade barriers.”
Kudlow said the call on Wednesday involving Chinese Vice Premier Liu He, U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin “went very well.”
The U.S. Trade Representative’s office didn’t reply to a request for comment.
Talks with China collapsed in early May after Beijing backtracked on commitments it made in a 150-page draft agreement to enshrine certain obligations in its domestic law. The U.S. wants China to address policies that it says force American companies to hand over valuable technology or intellectual property to do business in the country.
“We would love to go back to where we were in May — where we were getting kind of close to an agreement, maybe 90 percent of the way. But I don’t want to predict,” Kudlow said.
Trump has also demanded that China significantly increase purchases of U.S. farm commodities like soybeans and corn. China is one of the biggest markets for U.S. agriculture exports, and farmers have been hit hard by China’s retaliation to U.S. tariffs.
But Beijing has informally tied any agricultural purchases to the U.S. treatment of Huawei. The telecommunications company was blacklisted by the Trump administration in May, effectively cutting it off from U.S. semiconductor suppliers...
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