China Wants To Invest Billions In New Pig Farms — In Argentina

Desperate for a chance to boost the economy and create some much needed jobs, Buenos Aires is ready to sign off on what environmentalists call a 'pandemics factory.'

A pig farm in China's Jiangxi Province
A pig farm in China's Jiangxi Province
Natalia Niebieskikwiat

BUENOS AIRES — The governments of China and Argentina are fine-tuning a memorandum of understanding that could mean billions of dollars in direct foreign investment. But not everyone is celebrating. Ask environmental groups, and they'll tell you the deal stinks to high hell — literally.

The debate centers around 25 farms and meat processing plants that, according to the terms of the agreement, are to be built in Argentina and will together double exports of Argentine pork products to China, from approximately 700,000 tons a year to 1.3 million tons.

To reach that export target, each of the new farms must raise up to 12,000 sows, which no farm in Argentine does at present. That's one of the reasons environmentalists and their allies are openly demanding that Foreign Minister Felipe Solá stop the memorandum, which is set to be signed in the coming weeks.

"We do not want to become a pig factory for China or a new pandemics factory," a group of more than 100 intellectuals, artists and journalists argue in an open-letter that has made the rounds recently online.

Argentina's recently appointed ambassador to China, Luis María Kreckler, defends the plan, which would be financed by Chinese capital — to the tune of some $3.5 billion over a two- or three-year period. Speaking from Beijing in late July, soon after his arrival and still in quarantine, Kreckler said it was "crucial" for Argentina in terms of raising the aggregate value of exports.

We do not want to become a pig factory for China or a new pandemics factory.

"Pig farming promotes investments and trained, formal employment," he said. "It also provides accessible, good quality and nutritious protein, and gives added value to primary materials that Argentina already produces like corn, soy and other oleaginous crops." Argentine feed crops are already used to raise pigs in Chile, China, Vietnam and in Europe, the ambassador noted.

Kreckler drafted a report for the government in Argentina in which he terms the deal a "federal program that will generate support and liven up the economy." It would raise the aggregate value of Argentine exports and improve its trade balance, he states.

The ambassador also notes that the deal involves the introduction of Chinese-funded technology which can be used to turn production residues into edible suproducts, natural fertilizers and renewal energy. Why, Kreckler asks, should Argentina be deprived of this opportunity to follow a path already taken by China, the United States, Germany and Denmark?

A traditional pork barbecue during the Fiesta de Cordero in Argentina — Photo: Ryan Noble/ZUMA

The agreement is to be signed by the Chinese Agriculture Ministry and Argentina's Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade Ministry, and was in fact conceived by the previous, conservative administration. But it is the current, leftist government, led by President Alberto Fernández, that is going ahead with the deal and drawing the wrath of environmentalists as a result.

In their open letter, critics of the project note that the global pandemic "is closely tied to hidden, socio-environmental and production issues' and that like Ebola, bird and pig flu, SARS and other cases of zoonosis "this is a virus that emerged for one of these causes: overcrowding animals in the industrial production or sales process and disintegration of ecosystems that has brought species closer together."

The document deals with a range of themes including the food industry's cruelty to animals. It observes that China suffered a severe outbreak of African swine fever two years back, for which it had to cull 200 million pigs. The letter also notes that the agreement would distance Argentina from its touted goal of food sovereignty.

The Argentine Foreign Ministry insists that there is no environmental risk.

"The industrial production of animals is a cruel and unsustainable agro-industrial model that not only generates local and regional pollution points but nurtures new and highly contagious viruses, and ultimately becomes a manufacturer of new pandemics," the document reads.

The Argentine Foreign Ministry insists that there is "no environmental risk" and argues that with 30% of Argentines living below the poverty line, two-digit unemployment and a pandemic battering the economy, "this is an opportunity not to be lost."

Instead of exporting three tons of corn with a market value of $550, the ministry claims, the country could export one ton of pork meat, worth $2,500. "The project is profoundly rational," it adds.

Keep up with the world. Break out of the bubble.
Sign up to our expressly international daily newsletter!

A Dove From Hiroshima: Is Fumio Kishida Tough Enough To Lead Japan?

Japan's new prime minister is facing the twin challenges of COVID-19 and regional tensions, and some wonder whether he can even last as long as his predecessor, who was forced out after barely one year.

Japan's new PM Fumio Kishida in Tokyo on Sept. 29

Daisuke Kondo


TOKYO — When Fumio Kishida, Japan's new prime minister. introduced himself earlier this month, he announced that the three major projects of his premiership will be the control of the ongoing pandemic; a new type of capitalism; and national security.

Kishida also pledged to deal with China "as its neighbor, biggest trade partner and an important nation which Japan should continue to dialogue with."

Nothing too surprising. Still, it was a rapid turn of events that brought him to the top job, taking over for highly unpopular predecessor, Yoshihide Suga, who had suddenly announced his resignation from office.

After a fierce race, Kishida defeated Taro Kono to become the president of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), and pave the way for the prime minister's job.

Born into politics

A key reason for Kishida's victory is the improving health situation, following Japan's fifth wave of the COVID pandemic that coincided with this summer's Olympic Games in Tokyo.

The best way to describe Kishida is to compare him to a sponge: not the most interesting item in a kitchen, yet it can absorb problems and clean up muck. His slogan ("Leaders exist to make other people shine") reflects well his political philosophy.

He is an excellent actor.

Kishida was born into a political family: His grandfather and father were both parliament members. Between the ages of six to nine, he studied in New York because of his father's work at the time. He attended the most prestigious private secondary school — the Kaisei Academy, of which about half of its graduates go to the University of Tokyo.

However, after failing three times the entrance exam to , Kishida finally settled for Waseda University. Coming from a family where virtually all the men went to UTokyo, this was Kishida's first great failure in life.

An invitation for Obama

After he graduated from college, Kishida worked for five years in a bank before serving as secretary for his father, Fumitake Kishida. In 1992, his father suddenly died at the age of 65. The following year, Kishida inherited his father's legacy to be elected as a member of the House of Representatives for the Hiroshima constituency. Since then, he has been elected successfully nine straight times, and served as Shinzo Abe's foreign minister for four years, beginning in December 2012. A former subordinate of his from that time commented on Kishida:

"If we are to sum him up in one sentence, he is an excellent actor. Whenever he was meeting his peers from other countries, we would remind him what should be emphasized, or when a firm, unyielding 'No' was necessary, and so on ... At the meetings, he would then put on his best show, just like an actor."

According to some insiders, during this period as foreign minister, his toughest stance was on nuclear weapons. This is due to the fact that his family hails from Hiroshima.

In 2016, following his suggestion, the G7 Ise-Shima Summit was held in Hiroshima, which meant that President Barack Obama visited the city — the first visit by a U.S. president to Hiroshima, where 118,661 lives were annihilated by the U.S. atomic bomb.

Photo of Shinzo Abe, Barack Obama and Fumio Kishida with their backs to the camera, in Hiroshima in 2016

Shinzo Abe, Barack Obama and Fumio Kishida in Hiroshima in 2016

Japanese cynics

In September, 2020 when Shinzo Abe stepped down as prime minister, Kishida put out his candidacy for the first time for LDP's presidency. He didn't even get close. This was his second great failure.

But reading his biography, Kishida Vision, I must say that besides the two aforementioned hiccups, Kishida's life has been smooth sailing over the past 64 years

When one has had a happy and easy life, one tends to think that human nature is fundamentally good. Yet, the world doesn't work like that. And Japanese tend to believe that "human nature is vice," and have always felt a bit uneasy with the dovish Kishida diplomacy when he was foreign minister.

Leftist traditions from Hiroshima

Hiroshima has always been a city with a leftist political tradition. Kishida's character, coupled with the fact that he belongs to the moderate Kochikai faction within the LDP, inevitably means that he won't be a right-wing prime minister.

How long will a Fumio Kishida government last?

Kishida would never have the courage to be engaged in any military action alongside Japan's ally, the United States, nor will he set off to rewrite the country's constitution.

So after barely a year of Yoshihide Suga in office, how long will a Fumio Kishida government last? If Japan can maintain its relatively stable health situation for some time, it could be a while. But if COVID comes roaring back, and the winter brings a sixth wave of the pandemic as virtually all Japanese experts in infectious diseases have predicted, then Kishida may just end up like Suga. No sponge can clean up that mess.

Keep up with the world. Break out of the bubble.
Sign up to our expressly international daily newsletter!