China, apparently facing food shortages, introduces bill to regulate overeating

China's high-tech surveillance state will be watching how much people eat, according to provisions of a bill just introduced and sure to pass its rubber-stamp National People's Congress legislative body.  Writing at Breitbart, Frances Martel is appropriately skeptical about the repeated official denials that food shortages have anything to do with the state's intrusion into the most intimate details of life for its citizens.

China's communist rubber-stamp legislature, the National People's Congress (NPC), introduced a bill Tuesday that would mandate a government war against "food waste" that includes ordering guests at weddings and other public events to eat less.

The bill also demands regulation of online videos showing people, particularly young women, binge eating — an increasingly popular trend on Chinese social media. (snip)

The state news agency Xinhua noted on Tuesday that the NPC bill on food waste is 32 pages long and extensively regulates how Chinese people consume food. Caterers of large events would be mandated to use technology to monitor clients closely.

"Catering service providers should adopt measures to minimize food waste, such as improving management systems for food purchase, storage and processing, and putting up posters to remind consumers to refrain from ordering excessive food," the bill text orders, according to Xinhua. "It calls on catering service providers to use technologies such as big data to analyze the needs of consumers to better manage food purchases, transportation, and storage."

The bill would also regulate the individual consumption of food.

"Individuals should serve or eat an appropriate amount of food at weddings, funerals, parties and other events, as well as in daily life, according to the draft," Xinhua detailed. "News media outlets are required to promote public awareness of preventing food waste, the draft says, banning them from producing, broadcasting or spreading programs or audio-video clips on binge eating."


Photo credit: Chinese Tasi.  CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 license.

Given China's use of surveillance cameras and facial recognition software, a dystopia where the State coerces people into limiting their food intake is not hard to predict, watching them eat every time they sit down outside the home (and maybe eventually inside it as well).

China had a bad year for a lot of food crops due to flooding and pests, but officials adamantly deny any shortages even as they campaign against food waste and overeating.  The specter of dependence on foreign food supplies in a time of shortage brings back uncomfortable memories of Mao's time, when mass starvation — a frequent feature of China's history — led to massive purchases of American grain, a humiliating measure.

It may be hard for Americans to understand the role of food and public eating in the Chinese mind.  Banquets are a major way to demonstrate conspicuous consumption, and people think and talk about food a lot more than most Westerners.  One common greeting when meeting someone on the street is "Have you eaten?"

Martel presents a number of examples of official denials of a problem that convince me that there really is a problem.

China's dictatorial system looks strong from the outside and appeals to people like Tom Friedman as efficient and capable of achieving great things.  But what Friedman and many American elites miss is the level of dissatisfaction among those not sharing in the benefits of industrialization, while paying its costs in crowding, pollution, and high-handed officialdom.  China's focus on surveillance and state control of personal behavior demonstrates the inherent weakness of a top-down, corrupt system of governance.