Food security has been an evolving priority of the Chinese government. Recent disruptions to global food trade have redoubled China’s traditional emphasis on grain security. Food policies have also included measures to ensure food safety, combat waste, maintain commodity prices, and protect farmer livelihoods. The 2022 lianghui or “two sessions” – the annual sittings of the National People’s Congress (NPC) and the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) – emphasized Chinese leader Xi Jinping’s signature Greater Food Vision policy, which seeks an integrated approach to securing future food resilience through food production upgrades, diversification of food sources, and transformation of dietary habits.
Building China’s protein sector is a particular priority. China is a massive consumer of animal protein and is expected to account for nearly 30 percent of incremental global meat demand by 2025. China has dramatically increased its own domestic meat and dairy capacities but the sector remains deeply dependent on overseas supplies of production inputs such as animal feed, especially soybeans, of which China is by far the largest global consumer. China’s extensive agribusiness investments have aimed to mitigate this exposure to global shocks, at the same time reducing its dependence on the United States as a supplier.
For this reason, China has expressed high-level political support for developing alternative proteins. In December 2021, the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs released its strategy for the national 14th Five-Year Plan period. This included a new section on “future foods manufacturing”, referencing cultivated meat, recombinant protein, synthetic biology, and gene editing, among a long list of other technologies. The National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC), meanwhile, has published China’s first Bioeconomy Five-Year Plan, which calls for developing “synthetic proteins”, including both cultivated meat and fermentation-derived proteins, alongside other key biotechnologies such as biomedicine, biological breeding, biomaterials and bioenergy. In his lianghui address, Xi underscored this priority, stating the need to diversify protein across animal, plant and microorganism sources to bolster food security.
How China is implementing its alt-protein plans
Looking beyond statements, various national-level departments have put forward proposals to accelerate the development of cultivated meat and protein fermentation technologies, as well as policy support for the plant-based protein industry. Since 2020, the Ministry of Science and Technology has offered a program of competitive research grants in the green biomanufacturing National Key R&D Program. The Bioeconomy Five-Year Plan further instructs state ministries and commissions to "increase investment in resources such as capital, technology, and talents" for novel alternative protein food scientific research projects and formulate policies to support the development of related industries.