Professor Libiao on the right to food in China: cultural roots and future outlook

In his article, Professor Libiao Ning presents the evolution of the concept of rights to food in the Chinese economics and culture, exploring its present importance future outlooks and global implications, too. The starting point of this analysis is the problem of the definition of the right to food in a very broad and general sense, understood as a human right to a “culturally acceptable” food, without toxic substances, to satisfy human basic needs, recognized by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. This general right is then contextualized in the Chinese environment – that has notoriously a population of about 1,4 billion – and that is marked by particular features and challenges, such as a steady aging agricultural workforce, a incredibly high degree of pollution, the risk linked to climate change and high levels of soil depletion. From a theoretical perspective, what is clearly emphasized here is that although the notion of human right is often linked Western legal mentality, it is not incompatible with the Chinese traditional culture. In particular, the concept of benevolence (ren), rooted in the Confucian philosophy, is considered a possible foundation for human rights in China, including the right to food. Moreover, it is underlined how all this has become an important part of the wide governance practices of the Communist Party, since the 2009–2010 National Human Rights Action Plan and the 2012–2015 National Human Rights Action Plan strongly considered the wish to protect the people’s livelihood and well-being. More in detail – as Professor Libiao argues – the first document contains the Chinese government’s goal to protect the rights that guarantee a basic standard of living, including the right to food professor Libiao wrote. On another note, big investments are being channeled into foreign companies in the food industry (as it is clearly shown by the fact that recently China state-owned ChemChina finalized its $44 billion purchase of the Swiss pesticides and seeds giant, Syngenta). Many other policies are surely necessary to protect and ensure the right to food. On the one hand, there is the need to frame the right to food within the global and national fight against poverty, on the other, and more concretely, there is the need to improve the legislation related the right to food, both at a national and international scale. We must be aware, indeed, that the issue of food security does not concern only the Chinese population but has broader consequences at international level and on the global dynamics.