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How is China able to provide enough food to feed over 1B people? (quora.com)
594 points by carapace 52 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 330 comments

This and watching HBO's Chernobyl have prompted me to ask: how do communist countries work? Is there something I can read or watch to best understand things like who owns these farms, who profits from them, how do they pay workers, how do you buy a house, etc

It's all as foreign to me as medieval peasants and nobles so I don't know how it works from day to day. The fact that China now has billionaires, and billionaires spoiled kids doing donuts in supercars also confused me.

It was pretty simple in the USSR: the government owns the farms, the government profits from them, they pay the workers (very often in product).

The government/party says a new farm will be created here, the order goes out.

It is all controlled from the top (communist party) through the regional council, through the local council (often a few councils inbetween). After the farm is established, a few inspections by party officials and it's all set up and operating.

This created the perfect opportunity to fudge reports like there's no tomorrow and essentially the party had no idea what is actually going on.

Papers say production is fine, orders are to maintain levels, report comes back saying everything is proceeding as ordered. In reality, production was higher than reported (with no room to grow if ordered), workers are skimming product, managers are skimming product, local council is skimming product and money, regional council is skimming money. To make up for the shit pay, but also because why not, the party won't miss it.

Orders come in to increase production, report says "no can do, need more equipment, need more land, need more workers". Of course, more than is actually needed, so someone can have their own tractors.

The black market, often in barter, was huge.

The party in Moscow could not contain its spread even with their network of spies. People trusted each other, not the party, the police were in on it.

Not sure if that's how it works in China, but they have the advantage of instant communications, instant checks on any level, modern surveillance.

This turned out messy, I'm too tired.

Wonder how this could change with modern technology and controls.

I've always wondered how this system would work out in countries that don't have a recent history of petty corruption.

China is communist in name only at this point. The government is authoritarian but the economy works in a pretty familiar way as far as business ownership and financial transactions.

Does everyone have a job, no homelessness, etc?

You don't see visible homelessness nearly as much as in US big cities. Chinese friends I've discussed this with attribute it to familial piety acting as a much stronger safety net; people will make big sacrifices to save their relatives from total failure. It's expected, and a stark contrast to the American notion of extreme individualism. There's also no opiod epidemic.

Homelessness in China is visible and universal, but you have to know where to look. There's a lot of shame associated with it, just like disability (I'm sure you've probably noticed you don't see many disabled people in China either). https://aeon.co/essays/what-is-life-like-for-disabled-people...

I fundamentally reject that filial piety is the reason for this (filial piety causes all sorts of other social problems, too).

People in Confucian cultures hide things they see as shameful to protect their 面子.

If anything, I think this indicates there are far darker unseen truths in Chinese society that we are insulated from through the 'face' system.

That's interesting...so more societal than government structure.

Anyone know what the closest remaining country is to actual communist dogma is? Vietnam? Cuba?

Also interested in what the most purely socialist country might be.


No, people search for jobs just like they would anywhere else, and if they don’t find one then they get to be unemployed and broke.

Homelessness is definitely a thing. If you can’t afford a place to live then you’ll just have to make do.

Ah, yeah. Not sure "Communist" means much then.

1. In both China, and the Soviet Union, nobody would guarantee you a job. You had to find one for yourself. [1]

2. But because of funny accounting (When your business can operate at a loss, it's easy to overhire), there was no shortage of jobs. There was a shortage of good jobs.

3. Food and housing (At least in the USSR) was very heavily subsidized.

[1] Unless you were a collectivized rural farmer, in which case, you had very few options for leaving the kolhoz. It was shitty, hard work, that paid very little, and most of the people doing it, as well as their children had few alternatives.

If you have rural hukou you are entitled to a piece of land for building a home and a piece of land for farming. But it is possible that you could have sold off these rights. In cities there is 低保 https://baike.baidu.com/item/%E4%BD%8E%E4%BF%9D If you are really resourceful you may be able to survive on it. But if you are really resourceful you are unlikely to need it in the first place.

It's extremely easy to find a job in Chinese cities, generally speaking. There's lots of jobs for jobs sake - most restaurants have far too many staff, and there's lots of security guards everywhere who run away at the first sign of real trouble.

Regarding homelessness, it definitely exists, although differently from the US etc. If you go into a 24hr McDonalds or KFC you'll see lots of homeless people slumped over tables sleeping because nobody there will kick them out. It's also very common to see homeless people congregating in the lower levels of major railway stations at night.

1. Nationalise land owned by peasants. Kill protesters and imprison their families. 2. Coerce peasants to cultivate the land. 3. Take all the harvest. Can leave peasants to starve to the death, that's OK. 4. Profit!


They're only called "Communist". They don't even define themselves as having reached Communism. Their economy is based on the exchange of commodities and the use of money as a key mediating commodity; the main difference is state ownership of most of the means of production, and state planning (which to be honest is not entirely unlike planning in large corporations, but with different considerations).

Read Red Plenty. Here's a good review, though I recommend reading the book first: https://slatestarcodex.com/2014/09/24/book-review-red-plenty...

The part of Red Plenty about Raisa Berg’s contentions is totally mathematically illiterate and unsupported.

China is not a communism these days (not sure if it ever was). It’s a market economy, just much less state-controlled/-directed than most Western economies (if you dispute that Western economies are state-controlled, just see US subsidies for agriculture and their political lobbying for Boeing)

I dispute this. China has always been a communist country. Once Mao took over, he made the country a single party system and treated the whole country and its people as an extension of the military.

China took this kind of social-government structure and paired it with a central director, persistently and steadily marching towards a self-sustainable future, at the expense of the freedom and prosperity of its people. Chinese had difficult time buying in the world economy due to a surpressed currency. The gains were seized by its government.

The power was more centered on its government and its government delivered, but not without losses. Famine, environmental waste, and loss of property were all ways through which they learned.

All in all, China took the world's developments and owned them. They stuck with poverty and low income to keep their efficiency super high.

The only free markets that exist are in employment systems. Everything else is state chartered, controlled, or influenced.

China is not Communist, but it remains Leninist.

The author's answer to the question 'How do mainland Chinese feel about the protests in Hong Kong on the extradition law amendment?':


At the very end author compares hong kong island to langkawi portraying lankgawi as some unatractive island and that hong kongers should be happy they are connected to mainland. This is where I started look more critical at the whole article having been in those islands before myself - it was a great reality check that you have read everything very critically these days.

I recommend everyone not only to check google images how langkawi look like but even more recommend to go there for a holiday [1]. It's called 'bali of malaysia' and popular tourist destination. Very close to another great malaysian island - penang.

Author says "You can rent this island for 99 years and start to develop your economy." I would happily rent it for even 10 years if the price is right!

[1] https://www.google.com/search?q=langkawi

I'm majorly surprised you needed to read until the end to figure that out. To me it was and is impossible to read from the beginning without having my propagandometer going off-limits nearly instantly. I wanted to take parts and comment here to substantiate my claim, but the post is too extreme and long. It's obvious. The linked post is outright /r/sino material.

The quora question is "How mainland Chinese feel about protests in Hong Kong", and the answer IMO is same as the reality of how mainland Chinese really feel about it.

I would certainly question his advice to go to Malaysia - the Chinese community there has been subjected to increased discrimination over the years.

Oh my. That post is drooling of authotarianism and disgust for individuality and freedom, and it has an alarming amount of nationalism and militarism. If this is how the Chinese government is thinking and working, then we are in for a bad time.


Can confirm.

Well. He did give a pretty good answer, didn't he?

Not often you see someone with this level of writing representing the mainland China view of things.

It's smart propaganda, it's hard to see him changing the subject to supposingly Chinese help ( water, food, ...). Which is actually just trade.

Hong Kong still needs to pay for it, so it's not a gift.

The only reason for Hong Kong to bed an army, is China.

Like I said, smart propaganda. This is 1 guy evolving his comment based on discussion or a team of propaganda employees.

"Eschew flamebait. Don't introduce flamewar topics unless you have something genuinely new to say. Avoid unrelated controversies and generic tangents."


The last thing we need is for a thread about food production to get sucked into the nearest black hole, which is precisely what comments like this one invoke.


As others have pointed out, the original article features an ideological undercurrent that remains mostly implicit. I referred to another article of the same author which makes those ideological assumptions explicit, thereby clarifying his political stance. If this is considered flamebait, then it seems that clarity needs to be avoided where it might cause controvery.

Let's assume that's so—what does it matter? The article was interesting for reasons other than its implicit ideology. Making it explicit so as to fight it is stepping into the ideological battle that we don't want here. We have more than enough of that. Everything is implicitly ideological anyway.

Re "avoiding clarity": if you change the subject, that deprives the thread of clarity on the points that actually made it interesting. And if you change it to a flamewar, that just fills the comments with fire and smoke, which does nothing for clarity. It just gets people venting and yelling at each other.

>Small countries like Singapore, Israel, South Korea, and Finland have compulsory military services or civil services for more than two years

What a strange, unnecessary lie.

This person's post is frightful and despotic but true.

That guy sure enjoys adding satellite imagery to his posts.

Yeah definitely liberated Tibet with all those greenhouses and tomatoes in xinjiang.

Without reading the link...

This kind of question is dumb. It imagines there is an entity called "China" that's tasked with feeding 1.3B people.

In reality, it's just 1,300,000,000 individuals tasked with feeding themselves, just like anywhere else in the world. We do it by division of labor. Some grow food, others build goods, others provide services. We all trade with each other so everyone can specialize at what we do best.

It's no different if the nation border happens to enclose 1.3B Chinese nationals or 300K Icelandic ones.

staplor 52 days ago [flagged]

Read the link and then delete your comment.

This comment breaks the site guidelines: https://news.ycombinator.com/newsguidelines.html. Please don't be a jerk on HN.

Thank you for the reply. Won't do it again.

China is investing heavily in Africa.

He forgets to mention: Africa

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