Chinese Communist Party leader Xi Jinping once launched the Clean Plate campaign to reduce food waste and ensure food security in China. However, comments on the state media indicate that Chinese people are still wasting $30 billion worth of food every year.

The Chinese regime’s official website reposted an article by Xinhua News saying that, due to epidemics and natural disasters threatening food supplies, in August 2020, Xi Jinping launched the Clean Plate campaign to reduce food waste. According to Sinchew, at one point, all over China, food waste was banned, and extreme measures similar to the Zero-Covid policy in epidemic prevention were implemented.

At that time, the New York Times reported that some schools even banned leftovers by threatening to prevent students from applying for scholarships. Some restaurants even put electronic scales in front of their doors, requiring customers to weigh themselves before and after eating, which caused some to feel humiliated and walk away.

According to CCN, a restaurant in Hunan asked customers to “order by weight. For example, women who weigh less than 88 lbs can only order stir-fried beef and minced fish head. In addition, a person must weigh over 154 lbs to eat a plate of caramelized pork. 

In addition, China Daily reported that in the Yaohai district of Hefei, Anhui province, the local authority employed more than 500 volunteers to distribute leaflets about table etiquette, including taking away leftovers and using served chopsticks to select food from shared dishes. They distributed leaflets to more than 2,300 restaurants.

According to Newtalk, there was a cafeteria in a government agency that ordered employees not to leave straight after they had finished eating. Instead, they must put plates on a scale; if the leftovers weigh over 4.4 ounces, they will be fined 15 cents. Simultaneously, they even installed surveillance cameras to see who was wasting food.

Newtalk also reported that the Chengdu Center, Hangyao Center, and other units of the China Geological Survey even erected a wall with the words “Clean Plate campaign started with me” to express their attitude toward Xi Jinping’s proposal and forced people to sign on the wall to form a collective commitment.

Even so, an article published by the China State Economic Daily on July 28 pointed out that China’s food waste is still staggering. The article said China’s per capita grain production last year reached almost 1000 lbs. However, losses and waste in grain production, procurement, storage, processing, and consumption are still significant.

The article estimated that China’s total loss of grain after storage, transportation, processing and other related steps exceeds 38 million tons. As a result, the value of food wasted on the dining table amounted to almost $30 billion.

The article pointed out that reducing food loss and waste is equivalent to increasing grain production. For example, based on the total output of 147.39 million tons of summer grain, reducing food loss by 1% could save 1.434 million tons in a year, equivalent to a 2% increase in summer grain production.

However, according to Aboluowang, the meaning behind the Clean Plate campaign also reflects the unease of the Chinese authorities about whether they can maintain food supply and demand. Li Guoxiang, a researcher at the Institute of Rural Development of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, once said that China’s long-term food security situation is a delicate balance. Although food rations can be self-sufficient, food production faces problems such as rising costs, resource constraints, and rigorous demand.

Due to this, China is currently plundering and dredging food around the world, competing to buy three main agricultural products: soybeans, wheat and corn.

As reported by Nikkei Asia late last year, over the past few years, China has purchased soybeans, corn and wheat from the United States, Brazil, and other countries, and purchases have increased 2 to 12 times more than estimated. At the same time, imports of beef, pork, dairy products, and fruits rose 2 to 5 times.

Bloomberg said that the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) forecast that China’s corn stocks in the first half of this year are expected to account for 69% of world corn stocks. In comparison, rice and wheat will account for 60% and 51%, respectively. This can be said to be blatant hoarding of food.

Figures from the General Administration of Customs of China also show that China’s procurement spending in 2020 has reached $98.1 billion, up 4.6 times from 10 years ago, and in just nine months from May 1 to September 2021, China’s food imports had also been higher than the total imports in 2016.

Cincai News reported that Goro Takahashi, an emeritus professor at Aichi University in Japan, who is knowledgeable about Chinese agriculture, pointed out that, although developed countries are responsible for the famine, “China’s responsibility is even bigger, and China should take action to address the unequal food distribution.”

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