History of Soybeans and Soyfoods in China, in Chinese Cookbooks and Restaurants, and in Chinese Work with Soyfoods Outside China (Including Taiwan, Manchuria, Hong Kong & Tibet) (1949-2022)

William Shurtleff, Akiko AoyagiISBN: 978-1-948436-66-3

Publication Date: 2022 Jan. 11

Number of References in Bibliography: 3854

Earliest Reference: 1949

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Brief Chronology/Timeline of

1949 Oct. 1 – Mao Zedong announces the birth of the People’s Republic of China (PRC). In December Chiang Kai-shek and the Kuomintang retreat to Taiwan.

1958 spring – The “Great Leap Forward” begins in China under Chairman Mao Zedong and the Chinese Communist Party.

1958 – “China’s postwar production of soybeans has fallen well below the average prewar output of 10 to 11 million metric tons annually (in the neighborhood of 400 million bushels)” (Soybean Digest. Feb. p. 22).

1959-1961 – The Great Leap Forward and three hard years bring widespread famine to China. Scholars have estimated the number of famine victims to be between 20 and 45 million.

1966 May – The Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution begins in China, sending youth down to the countryside to work with peasants. Its peak is in 1966-67. It has died out by 1976.

1969 Nov. – American Soybean Association (ASA) establishes an office in Taiwan; Dr. Steve Chen is the first country director in Taipei.

1973 March – The Asian Vegetable Research and Development Center (AVRDC), founded in 1971, begins its soybean improvement program.

1976 Sept. 9 – Chairman Mao Zedong dies in China.

1976 – The world is astonished to learn that Brazil has surpassed mainland China to become the world’s No. 2 producer of soybeans (after the USA) with a record harvest of 426 million bushels (11.6 million metric tons). In 1969 no one thought of Brazil as a producer of soybeans. The country’s annual production was only 35 million bushels (Soybean Digest Dec. 1976, p. 20-21).

1978 Dec. – Deng Xiaoping announces official launch of the four modernizations to strengthen the fields of agriculture, industry, national defense, and science and technology in China. This is a turning point in the modernization and strengthening of China.

1979The book Horseman in the Snow: the Story of Aten, an Old Khampa Warrior, by Jamyang Norbu states (p. 39): “Our usual crops were wheat, peas, soya beans, buckwheat, potatoes, radishes, turnips and red pimentos. Our most important crop was the barley. It was roasted and ground to make Tsampa, which is the staple diet of all Tibetans.” These soybeans were grown in Nyarong, in what was traditionally Eastern Tibet, but which the Chinese government now says is in eastern Sichuan province. This is the earliest document seen concerning the cultivation of soybeans in Tibet. This document contains the earliest date seen for the cultivation of soybeans in Tibet (1979 at Nyarong). The source of these soybeans is unknown.

1979 – Chinese-American diplomatic relations are normalized by President Richard M. Nixon’s visit to China and “ping Pong diplomacy.”

1980 – Chang Ren Shuang, curator of the soybean germplasm collection at the Liaoning Agricultural Academy, states that the soybean was probably first domesticated in Liaoning province “because the wild soybean grows everywhere and the stages of evolution are apparent” (Soybean News, Jan. p. 3-4).

1980s to 2000s – Taiwan becomes a major producer of edamamé, including organic edamamé, largely for export to Japan.

1982 Aug. 17 – American Soybean Association (ASA) establishes an office in China; Terrence Foley is the first country director in Beijing.

1989 – The Tiananmen Square protests in Beijing, China. At least 202 protesters are killed according to the Tianamen Mothers' compilation.

1995-96 – China didn’t import any soybeans before 1995-96. That year China begins importing U.S. soybeans, starting with 12 million bushels. “Between 1995 and 2000, China went from being self-sufficient in soybeans to being the world’s largest buyer, importing over 40 percent of its supply” (Kluis 1996, p. 54; Lester Brown 2002, p. 48). For about 3,000 years, China has produced enough soybeans for its own needs. But since about 1995, China has emerged as the world’s largest net soybean importer – by far. Three main forces have driven this change: (1) As Chinese workers become more affluent, their appetite for meat increases; therefore more soybeans are needed as animal feed. (2) Fresh water in China has become increasingly scarce. In northern China, where soybeans have traditionally been produced, water tables are dropping at a rate of 3-10 feet/year. “It takes a thousand tons of water to produce one ton of grain,” says Lester Brown, president of the Earth Policy Institute, a U.S. environmental research and advocacy group. “So the most efficient way to import water is in the form of grain.” (3) China’s population, the largest in the world at 1.3 billion people, continues to grow. (Barrionuevo, Alexei. 2007. “To Fortify China, Soybean Harvest Grows in Brazil.” New York Times. April 6. p. A1, C7.).

1997 July 1 – Britain returns Hong Kong to China, along with the New Territories and Kowloon Peninsula.

2000 Oct. – Organic edamame from China start to arrive in the U.S. market (Tak Kimura, 2001 Aug.).

2001 Dec. – China joins the World Trade Organization (WTO).

2003 Jan. – An article about the enzymes of douchi is written by Pen, Huang and Zhang (x2). This is the earliest document seen (Jan. 2022) in which they authors are from a “Key Laboratory” established the Chinese government. Starting at about this time Chinese scholars write many outstanding and increasingly sophisticated articles about soybeans and soyfoods. The early years of the 21st century can rightfully be seen as a great leap forward for Chinese scholarship!

2001/2002 – The United States becomes the largest soybean exporter to China.

2004 – China’s soybean production peaks at 17.4 million metric tons.

2005/06 – Brazil becomes China’s largest supplier of soybeans, surpassing the USA (New York Times 2007 April 6).

2008 Aug. 8-24 – China hosts the Summer Olympic Games, and, in the unofficial individual medal count, is the winner when gold, silver and bronze are weighted 5, 3, and 1 respectively. The opening ceremony is spectacular and unforgettable.

2008-09 – China's soybean imports pass the total soybean imports of the rest of the world (World Grain 2010 Feb., p. 20).

2011 Feb. – China buys roughly 25% of U.S. soybean exports. Most of this demand is for soybean meal. China is by far the biggest U.S. customer, as its people become more affluent and urbanized (Corn and Soybean Digest, p. 42, 44).

2014 – China: “Four numbers tell the story of the explosive growth of soybean consumption in China. In 1995, China was producing 14 million tons of soybeans and it was consuming 14 million tons. In 2011, it was still producing 14 million tons of soybeans – but it was consuming 70 million tons, meaning that 56 million tons had to be imported.” Most of these soybeans were used to feed hogs, poultry, and fish. “China’s neglect of soybean production reflects a political decision made in Beijing in 1995 to focus on being self-sufficient in grain.” By importing soybeans, China is focused on importing even scarcer water (Lester Brown. 2013. “China’s rising soybean culture reshaping Western agriculture.” www.earthpolicy.org). Yet most of China’s soybeans for use as human food are still grown in China.

In 1914 the world’s top five soybean producers are now: United States (88.7 million tons), Brazil (88.0), Argentina (54.5), China 12.2, and India 11.8). Brazil is now poised to pass the USA.

2022 Jan. – The number of excellent scientific articles by Chinese researchers about soybeans and soyfoods continues to increase.

China is forecast to import a record 101 million tonnes of soybeans and to decrease soybean production by 600,000 tonnes in the 2021-22 marketing year, according to USDA.

“In 2020-21, China accounted for nearly 60% of the world's soybean imports and led the world in soybean meal production with 74.4 million tonnes, easily outpacing the United States' output of 46.3 million tonnes” (World Grain. 2021 Sept. 9).

Will the 21st century be the “Chinese century”? – just as the 20th century was widely viewed as the “American century.”

Click here to download the full text to open and read book History of Soybeans and Soyfoods in China, in Chinese Cookbooks and Restaurants, and in Chinese Work with Soyfoods Outside China (Including Taiwan, Manchuria, Hong Kong & Tibet) (1949-2022)