The Worlds Food and Health: China

Last Updated on 04/03/2023 by Sophia

Abstract 

Food and health of a country are two important aspects that determine the well-being of a country’s population economically, politically, and socially. China is a big country that needs a detailed focus on its demographics related to food and health to devise a way to maintain a stable food supply and good health of the population. The health and food status of a country is determined by staple food production and the production of other foods. The nutritional status regarding poor diet, nutritional power, and dietary patterns create a strong definition of country food and health status. China has both positive and negative food-related issues that contribute to its health status. The cost of staple foods in China is the major contributor to the controlled but not satisfactory food security in the country. In China, geopolitical factors socioeconomic and cultural factors play an important role in the food and health status of the country. 

 

The Worlds Food and Health

The world’s health status depends on food, how it is provided, the way it is sourced, the intake rate, and the nutritional content. Popular foods that determine food security and its users’ health are whole grains, vegetables, fruits, seafood, and meat from domestic and sometimes wild animals. Dietary differences in foods and food supply in the world are responsible for the differences observed in the health status of a certain population. Factors such as agriculture, culture, religion, and climate play a very critical role in evaluating the food and health of a region. Populations depend on the available supplies to provide them with a stable food source to boost their health. In most cases, a country imports what it cannot produce to maintain a healthy food supply (Jones & Ejeta, 2015). In the same way, a country exports the surplus to other regions that need that food product. 

The national level and international level of food prices directly affect the health of the population. Also, food shortages affect a population’s health directly since individuals take food to satisfy hunger but not for dietary and nutritional satisfaction. In such cases, food affects health by malnutrition. The global food and health scenario is faced by challenges of cost of nutritious food, affordability of salubrious diets, approaches to agriculture, production costs, logistics, production costs, marketing of food, education, and social protection systems (Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, 2019).  

To gain insights and a deeper understanding of a country’s food and health, a complete evaluation and critical analysis of the country’s demographics, staple food and other food production, the nutritional status, the economics of food, and other factors such as socioeconomic, geopolitical and cultural factors ought to be thoroughly researched. In this context, the study qualitatively and quantitatively evaluates the food and nutritional status of china while exploring its relationship and impact on health and the economic, political, and socio-cultural environments. The nutritional status within a country is directly related to food, its supply, distribution, contents, agriculture, cost, storage, and seasonal behaviors. 

China

In China, food and health are considered as a basic need that boosts the quality of life. Chinese food varies from region to region with observable differences such as different staple foods from different regions. Also, some regions in China will have a different season for food products such as rice. In China, food is perceived to contain nutritional and medical qualities. The major difference with china’s health is that china is known for its spices, a range of ingredients, herbs, and fresh meat from a range of animals such as deer to some snake species. 

Demographics

China covers a geographical area of 9.593 million square kilometers. As of 2020, china has a population of 1,441,431,882 with a yearly population change of 0.39%; this represents a global population share of 18.59%, ranking number one in the world. As per the fertility rate, china has 1.7 live births per woman as of 2020. Life expectancy for china is 77.5vyears for the entire population, 79.7 years for females, and 75.4 years for males. On the other hand, china’s infant mortality rate stands at 8.4 and 9.8 for babies under the age of 5 (Worldometer, 2019)

Another demographic trend in china that has had a great impact on Chinas food and health is the urban population compared to the rural population. The current urban population in china represents 59.7% of the country’s population. The urban population has increased steadily from 1995 to 2020, as shown by the statistics in figure 1 below. 

Figure 1

On further analysis, the demographic related to china, the state is atheist since it does not survey its population religiously. China is also under the category of upper-middle-income countries as per world banks categorization. China contains 91.51 Han Chinese, while it is home to 56 different ethnic groups. On poverty levels, an approximated 10% of the population lives on $1 a day, which is an improvement from 64% 35 years ago (World Population Review, 2020).

Globally Chinas total food imports stand at $105 billion; 72% representing $75.3 billion of the imports represent imports from it preferable ten partner while 28% equivalent to $29.3 billion represent imports from the rest of the world (China Power Project, 2017). Statistics from 2000 to 2017 show that the undernourished Chinese population decreased by 8.6%, and per capita income (annual) increased from $330 to $9,460. Figure 2 below shows food imports and exports in china from 1003 to 2017.

Figure 2

China has unstable food security agriculturally since it only has 0.21 acres of arable agricultural land per capita. Also, statistics from the China Power Project show that 15.5% of China’s underground water is polluted in a way it cannot be used in any way.  China also has vast land contaminated and cannot perform agriculturally, such as the region of Henan province where the government banned farming in 8 million acres of farming land. China is ranked position 23 in 67 countries in food sustainability and position 38 of 113 in the food security index (China Power Project, 2017). Research conducted in 2016 showed that 40% of the Chinese population acknowledge food safety to be a problem. 

On matters fishery, china produces about 36% of the global fishery production totals (55.2 million tons of fish in 2017). China has invested a lot in aquaculture and aquatic food production. However, Chinas aquatic food supply is still below fulfilling levels, and thus china still imports fish. In 2017, china imported fish worth $11 billion, thus constructing it as the third-largest importer of fish after the US with $22 billion and Japan with $15 billion (China Power Project, 2017)

In terms of age and age groups, Chinas population is made up of more population between the ages of 30 to 54 than other age groups. This age group is the most conscious about healthy nutrition and food. The second age group is between 1 and 29 years (China Power Project, 2016). Children are categorized under this age group and are the most sensitive to health issues and food-related issues. Also, it is crucial to note that Chinas couples are only entitled to 1 child. Health in Chinese children and youths is manageable when addressed with the right nutrition, diet, foods, and medical interventions. However, the aging population is suppressed by health conditions, with women experiencing poor health compared to men (Mather, 2020), as shown in Table 1 below.

 

Table 1

Staple and Other Foods Production

More than 75 of Chinese cultivated land is used for growing food crops, of which 25% is preserved for rice, which is one of the country’s staple food. The second most prevalent crop in china is wheat, mostly grown in northern China. Rice is majorly grown in southern China and is used for wine and beer production other than cooking. In early 2020, china produced 27.29 million tons of rice, which is a 3.9% increase from 2019 (Reuters, 2020). Another staple food for china is Tofu (Bean Curd), a type of food produced by mixing soy milk, curdling agent, and water. Tofu has a favorable concentration of iron, proteins, and calcium. Noodles are one of china’s staple foods in modern-day China. 

Noodles in china are made from mung bean starch, wheat flour, and rice flour. Another staple food for china is meat, with pork being the most preferred food product in China. Also, china consumes a sizable amount of chicken, mutton, pigeon, and duck. The most fundamental Chinese cuisine is made up of Chinese vegetables. Chinese prefer a supply of fresh leafy vegetables that are important in preparing meals. In China, vegetables like leaf vegetables such as spinach, lettuce, cabbage and cauliflower, eggplant, radishes, chines mushrooms, onions, soybean sprouts, string beans, carrots, and bamboo shoots are very common and fundamental in the Chinese food and health scenarios (Grabowski, 2018). In terms of flavors and seasoning ingredients, china is home to ginger, garlic, chilies, spring onions, and coriander. Other crops are white potatoes, sweet potatoes, corn, millet, oat, apples and pears, oilseeds, black tea, sugar beets, and sugarcane. 

Potato is predicted to be the new staple food for china because of its low production cost, less growing time, and lots of produce. During the last five years, the consumption of potatoes in china has grown by 40%, and the Chinese government anticipates potatoes to represent food security. Shells and bones are often found in Chinese foods compared to the US. Chinese culture upholds less meat and more vegetables (Grabowski, 2018). An average Chinese adult intakes 2,734 calories a day. 

China’s Nutritional Status

The nutrition status of china is different in each province due to variation in communication, population, occupations, farming practices, social-economic factors, and communication. China is a country that perfumes very well than developing countries in terms of nutrition.  Dietary patterns in china include foods that are low in fat, such as fish and vegetables. These foods that are low in fat are the main cause of malnutrition in many cases concerning children (Li et al., 2019). On the other hand, China has a low supply of daily products that provide calcium, which is essential for healthy bone development. Many people in china are lactase-intolerant and thus are limited to take daily products. Lactase is needed to break down the sugar found in milk and other daily products such as cheese. For this reason, a Chinese resident either acquires calcium supplements or replaces dairy products with soy products, tofu, soy milk, and vegetables.

Healthwise, the Chinese leadership, has set targets for the consumption of edible oils, salt, and free sugars. Most Chinese consumers take an average of 10.5 grams of salt per day, while the Health China Action Plan recommends less than 5 grams a day. On the other hand, the program recommends the consumption of 25-30 grams of edible oil per day; an average Chinese adult consumes 42.1 grams per day (World Health Organization: WHO, 2019). The suggested intake of free sugars is 25 grams per day, but the Chinese population finds themselves consuming more than 30 grams a day. 

The Chinese diet has complex carbohydrates that are mainly found in nuts, fruits, vegetables, grains, and seeds. For this reason, the digestive system of the Chinese people is effective since these foods have fiber, which is a crucial element in digestive health. In addition, Chinese food has high sodium concentration, which is highly discouraged, although the long-term effects of excess sodium mostly in children are not clear. The Chinese diet is also, on some occasions, deficient in iron, vitamin A, calcium, vitamin D, zinc, iodine, and selenium.  Dietary patterns have changed due to increased processed foods, changing lifestyles, and urbanization (Adoption Nutrition, 2019). This scenario caused the consumption of salt, foods high in energy, free sugars, and fats at high rates. 

Adults, specifically in China, face obesity problems due to rapid and uncontrolled intake of oil and carbohydrates, and salt (Adoption Nutrition, 2019). Other national health concerns in china related to unhealthy eating habits include cancers, cardiovascular diseases, and diabetes. The population between ages 10 to 30 years is majorly affected by unhealthy eating habits and changed dietary patterns. Also, males find themselves with health issues such as diabetes-related to foods and nutrition because most males are less cautious of dietary plans than females. 

Also, the urban lifestyle where individual eat more processed foods with preservatives and added food chemicals face more health challenges than rural dwellers who get a chance to eat fresh and homemade foods. White-collar jobs in china have increased, and more and more people involve themselves in the occupations. With increased consumption of processed and packed food in the office and less physical exercise, the population is faced with health conditions resulting from poor nutrition and lack of physical exercise (Adoption Nutrition, 2019). Lack of physical exercise is one of the country’s leading health problems caused directly or indirectly by food. 

China’s Food Economics

Food security in china holds a critical position in the country of China, as it is the pillar of culture and economic stability.  China has made respectable investments in agriculture to attain a 1:1 ratio of production to consumption, mostly in the production and consumption of grains. However, this figure is low to support food security in the country than other countries like the US, which produces almost 1.5 times grain that it can consume. China consumes 86.5 million tons of meat in 2018 compared to 7 million tons of meat in 1975 (China Power Project, 2017)

Per person, china consumed 48.9 kilograms of meat in 2018. The increase in the urban middle class has driven the rise in heavy meat intake and reduced consumption of grains. Chinese food security is, however, threatened by polluted agricultural and underground water such that these resources cannot be used again. China is also faced with the challenge of illegal food smuggling. For instance, in 2015, the Chinese government discovered smuggled meat worth $483 million (China Power Project, 2017). China has been making efforts to improve food security to increase the supply of food by trying to capitalize on available agricultural land in Australia. 

However, investment in Australia’s agribusiness by china reduced from $857.1 million in 2016 to $63 million in 2018 (China Power Project, 2017). China is cautious of its fishing water since it is one of its major sources of food. China makes a great investment in horticulture, aquaculture, and procuring a network of food import suppliers to facilitate food security, low costs of food, even food distribution, distribution of diets, and food storage and contamination prevention.

Geopolitical, Socioeconomic and Cultural Factors  

Chinas geopolitical setting affecting food and health is mainly caused by a trade agreement with other countries and trade disputes with the US. The difference in crop production seasons between china and its partnering import countries such as Brazil cause shortages in china too. For instance, when importing food products from Brazil, china benefits largely when Brazil is experiencing a favorable harvest period. In the season produces less produce, then china is directly impacted (Jones & Ejeta, 2015)

On the other hand, trade disputes between the US and China have caused food instability in china. The major causes are reduced food imports and political instability, and inactive trade agreements (Wu et al., 2018). The major socioeconomic factors affecting food and health in china are education, a rise in unemployment, and community problems such as the COVID-19 pandemic and income levels (Wolfson & Leung, 2020). Eminent literacy levels create a better understanding of the needs of following good dietary programs to boost the country’s nutritional status and also increase food production knowledge. COVID-10 pandemic decreased food production rate to almost 0%, and this increased food insecurity and increased food prices and shortages. 

Cultural factors that positively affect the food and health status of china are focus on traditional foods and organic foods. The different cultures in china have turned to their traditional food systems, which are proving to be cheaper than modern food solutions (Wu et al., 2018). However, the adoption of urban lifestyles has caused the population to take in unhealthy foods, adopt unhealthy dietary patterns, and to abandon traditional cuisines and thus leading to a lot of health complications as a result.

Conclusion

China is a global leader in providing food security solutions that, in turn, boost the health of the population. Chinas food supply and dietary patterns depend majorly on both imports and exports. Populations depend on the available supplies to provide them with a stable food source to boost their health. In most cases, a country imports what it cannot produce to maintain a healthy food supply. In the same way, a country exports the surplus to other regions that need that food product. Chinas holds a nutritious supply of stable food from grains, cereals, vegetables, and fruits. China’s investment in agriculture and trade agreements that help boost food imports and exports have positively impacted their food and health status. Chinas food economy depends on its monetary capabilities and relationships with trade partners. Chinas food and health landscape is an example of a potentially stable context but threats and weaknesses that could undermine its weaknesses.

 

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