China orchestrates its economic rise with great skill. The country was once considered the “working table of the world”, and Western companies wanted to produce there at low cost. The Chinese only allowed it in joint ventures that they controlled on a proportional basis. This gave them a quick and in-depth look at the technological know-how of the West. Knowledge so successfully flowed into China that the country is now the second largest economy in the world after the USA.
This is why it also makes sense to look for the strategic and non-financial aspects that give meaning to the deal in the 2017 acquisition of Swiss agrochemical company Syngenta by state-owned ChemChina. Syngenta was founded in 2000 from seed and crop protection activities in AstraZeneca and Novartis. It excelled in 2001 with a complete decoding of the rice genome and in 2004 it was the first company to gain EU approval for a genetically modified corn variety. With the acquisition of Syngenta, China has secured access to the company’s excellent knowledge in genetically modified seeds and other agricultural technologies.
A rising China wants to secure its food supply and reduce its dependence on imports. It is not surprising that the Chinese state and party leader Xi Jinping emphasized that the modernization of China is inseparable from the modernization of agriculture. The country owns 7% of the world’s arable land but is home to 22% of the world’s population. About 70% of the arable land is cultivated by small farmers who are not particularly efficient.
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