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Unravelling China's Food Security Puzzle, 1979–2008

  • Jane Du (a1) and Cheng King (a2)

This article studies Chinese central government policies in relation to food market building and food security between 1979 and 2008. It investigates major changes in the state's grain purchase pricing, urban subsidized food sales and the state monopoly over rural-to-urban food circulation that were effected in an attempt to ensure both food availability and accessibility under fiscal constraint. By observing the gradual transition from state monopoly to the market, this article traces the mechanisms which enabled the Chinese government to both establish a monopsony by generating artificial price signals for farmers to generate food output, and act as a monopolistic seller by providing subsidized low-priced food to urban consumers in order to fulfil its goal of low-cost industrialization. Thus, China's food security largely hinged on the government's budget to subsidize the price gap. The Chinese government juggled between food security and fiscal affordability to formulate a food budget that would neither excessively impact food security nor cause a crisis to government finance. China's food security puzzle was eventually worked out in the mid-2000s with the boosting of national income, which enhanced the population's access to food and eased the central government's food security concerns.

本文通过对 1979 年至 2008 年间中国粮食政策的观测,来探寻中国的国家政策、粮食安全以及粮食市场建构之间的内在关联。在 2004 年粮食流通体制全面市场化之前,中国的粮食安全政策一直试图同时实现粮食的充裕性和可获得性这两个政策目标。国家一方面充当垄断买家向农民发出人造的价格信号以调节粮食产出,另一方面,也同时扮演垄断卖家的角色,运用粮食消费价格补贴来降低城镇部门的工业化成本。基于粮食政策目标的双重性,中国的粮食安全很大程度上取决于财政补贴粮食购销价差的能力。因此,在确保粮食安全和减轻财政压力之间,中国的粮食政策呈现出长时间的摇摆态势。这一摇摆的过程本质上是为了在实现粮食安全的同时,尽力避免粮食流转造成财政危机的可能。中国粮食政策制定的难题得以解决,最终依赖于快速增长的国民收入水平。直到 21 世纪初,高速增长的居民收入提高了中国国民对于粮食价格的耐受度,降低了粮食可获得性在中国粮食政策制定中的迫切需要,并在这一层面上消除了中国政府在粮食安全的长期顾虑。

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