Discussion paper

DP18540 Who fed China?

China liberalized imports of agricultural goods upon WTO accession in 2001. The ensuing surge in imports became one of the largest shocks to global agriculture in the past three decades. We use variation in Chinese demand for different agricultural products to track the effects of the shock from the global level, to the country-level, and down to the local level in Brazil and the United States, China's main suppliers. We find that cropland expanded to meet Chinese demand to a degree that consumers elsewhere did not see higher prices. Cropland often expanded through conversion of pasture, but our results nevertheless indicate that Chinese demand for agricultural products has been the main driver of global deforestation over the past decades. Taking advantage of detailed U.S. data, we find that Chinese demand made farms more profitable, but we find no clear effects on agricultural wages.


Hansen, C and A Wingender (2023), ‘DP18540 Who fed China?‘, CEPR Discussion Paper No. 18540. CEPR Press, Paris & London. https://cepr.org/publications/dp18540