who's who in PRC agriculture?
Hey Beijing watchers!
For those new to our work, tracking and mapping the policy community and organisations is inscribed in the DNA of CHINA POLICY.
For this new venture, we kick off our coverage of top policy wonks with some celebrated veterans of the agriculture sector. Remember the faces—they will turn up often in ag discussions. We will look at some younger movers and shakers next time.
We will send out our monthly review, as usual, tomorrow, the last Saturday of the month.
Happy weekend reading!
Tang Renjian 唐仁健 | Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs Party Secretary, Central Rural Work Leading Group Office director
Well-known as governor of Gansu and former deputy to vice-premier Liu He 刘鹤, Tang became the top ag bureaucrat in 2020, back in a sector where he worked for many years. As Party Secretary, he serves concurrently as Minister of Agriculture— his Party position taking precedence. And concurrently as director of the Central Rural Work Leading Group Office, Tang answers directly to the Party Central Committee, underscoring the resumption of state responsibilities by the Party.
Highly qualified in rural finance, tax and markets, Tang advocated abolishing the age-old agricultural tax on farmers (dropped in 2006) and developing farmer coops, ag companies and rural financial services.
As the external environment weakens, he champions self-reliance in food production. Domestic woes such as extreme weather and rising production costs add more pressure. Concerted efforts have been made under Tang’s direction to boost summer and fall grain production. Analysts fret that this comes at the expense of good land stewardship and increasing nonpoint source pollution from ag chemicals and fertilisers.
Chen Xiwen 陈锡文 | National People’s Congress Ag and Rural Committee chair
Veteran ag economist and policy expert with decades of hands-on experience in ag and rural affairs, Chen served as head of the CCP Central Rural Work Leading Group until his semi-retirement in 2016. He is now the chair of NPC’s ARC, which organises field research and consultation, then advises the NPC and its Standing Committee on ag and rural issues.
Rural China must secure the supply of crucial ag products, protect ecological systems and rejuvenate traditional culture, Chen says of the agenda for rural revitalisation. Policy should integrate rural and urban regions. The county is the critical link between cities and vast rural regions and hence deserves more policy attention, he argues.
Chen is a frequent commentator on trade. Facing mounting food import pressure, he urges policymakers to rethink food imports via ‘ABCD companies’ (i.e. Archer Daniels Midland, Bunge, Cargill and Louis Dreyfus) and build PRC-owned ag supply chains by investing in infrastructure in targeted exporting countries. PRC-owned logistics hubs, storage, ports and processing plants would process grain bought overseas. Involvement in local ag production through investment and tech transfer would provide more soft power solutions.
Wu Kongming 吴孔明 | China Academy of Agricultural Sciences president
A leading entomologist researching crop protection and pests with CAAS (Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences) since 2011, Wu became president of the academy in 2021.
Long supporting GMOs, Wu’s team showed in 2019 that fall armyworm could be curbed by planting Dabeinong’s pest-resistant GM corn, later certified by the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs. GM tech might solve the PRC’s huge shortfall in soybean and corn, above all for animal feed, says Wu.
Dispelling myths, he argues GM crops are as safe as traditional ones, with no added allergen or toxin risks. Strict regulations, he insists, ensure environmental, ecological, and health impacts are assessed before approving a GM variety. International experience with GM crops should encourage local policymakers to bring PRC regulations in line with those of other markets, he says.