11 February 2011

Egypt's revolution and China's drought—a frightening connection

The Egyptian revolution has captured the world's attention like few events in recent years. Where, the world wonders, will it lead? Another event, receiving rather less attention, may help answer that question.

China is facing a massive drought, the worst, Chinese authorities believe, in 60 years, in some parts of the country in 200 years. China has long been self-sufficient in grains, but a third of the wheat crop is now threatened. This could mean China entering the world market, and China has enough currency reserves to outbid just about anybody. If this happens, the price of wheat, already up 35 percent since mid-November, could soar.

And what does this have to do with Egypt? A great deal actually. As China is the world's largest producer of wheat, Egypt is the world's largest importer. The Egyptian revolution, like the Tunisian, is driven in no small part by the high price of food. With the Chinese in the world market, that problem could be greatly aggravated. Even if the revolutionaries gain their major goal, the implementation of democracy, they may not be able to resolve one of the greatest grievances of the Egyptian people. Above all else, people need food. If neither dictator nor democrat can provide it, what then? Chaos?

The world should be praying for rain in China. If it doesn't come, revolutions in the Middle East may intensify and spread well beyond that part of the world. Booting out a few corrupt dictators may prove to be the easy part.

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