East Asia

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Although China's economy has grown phenomenally in the last 25 years, there are still significant issues affecting the country's future development: regional income inequalities, land and water scarcity, environmental degradation, the impact of the World Trade Organization on rural smallholders, and diet change and the rise of nutrition-related diseases. To better address these issues, IFPRI established a China Program and opened a Beijing office in 1997 to focus on strategic policy research, capacity strengthening, and policy communication.

As part of the program, IFPRI's Development Strategy and Governance Division (DSGD) is working to assess China's development options in the region in order to determine how best to accelerate poverty reduction.

Regional Inequality

Rapid industrial development and urbanization in China is taking land away from agricultural production, threatening China's ability to feed itself, and making regional inequalities even starker. DSGD is seeking to understand the driving forces behind this rapid rural industrialization by conducting surveys in the coastal areas. It is also investigating why growth in the coast fails to spill over to the interior regions as expected.

Natural Resources/Environment

To protect the lands and resources that remain, IFPRI's DSGD is also assessing China's efforts to combat resource degradation, especially in western China where the loss of natural resources not only has a severe environmental impact, but threatens to slow agricultural growth and further heighten rural poverty. As part of the project, IFPRI is preparing guidelines to help Chinese economists and policymakers determine the costs of land degradation and the potential socioeconomic benefits of conservation efforts.


Asia is undergoing a nutritional transition that is marked by a shift away from relatively monotonous diets of varying nutritional quality to industrial diets that are more varied and include more processed foods, more food of animal origin, more added sugar and fat, and more alcohol. This transition is accompanied by a shift away from infectious diseases toward chronic diseases such as obesity, diabetes, coronary heart disease, hypertension and stroke. IFPRI's Poverty, Health, and Nutrition Division (PHND) will therefore examine the relationship between childhood nutritional status and overweight/obesity in China, and identify policy options to address excessive vegetable oil intake and diet-related chronic diseases.

Social Protection

Because social protection in China is becoming an issue of increasing policy importance, PHND is also working with partners to assess the effectiveness of a variety of social safety nets in rural areas of four provinces in China. This collaboration focuses on targeting effectiveness at the household level, determining the impact of these programs on consumption and labor supply, and identifying alternative targeting methods and programs that would help reduce poverty in rural China.