2. Food: Malthus on the Yangtze

Ensuring the Chinese people have plenty of food arguably counts as one of the greatest achievements of the Chinese government. A book about scarcity also demands equal praise for the achievement of plenty. In countless conversations with disaffected or apathetic younger Chinese, nearly everyone notes his or her grandparents’ deep loyalty to the state despite the litany of contemporary problems that the country confronts. Chinese people over the age of 70 today, who were alive during the tumultuous civil war preceding China’s founding, often recount the mantra that “a full stomach is enough” (neng chibao duzi jiu keyi le). As simple as it may sound, it was an aspiration not to be taken for granted by Chinese of ...

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