XIAOWUSILI, China — For all its economic might, China hasn’t been able to solve a crucial problem.
中国小乌斯力——中国虽有经济实力,一个关键性的问题却尚未解决。
Soybeans. It just can’t grow enough of them.
这个问题就是大豆。中国无法种出足够的大豆。
That could blunt the impact of one of the biggest weapons the country wields in a trade fight with the United States.
这可能会导致它在与美国的贸易斗争中所使用的主要武器的威力受到制约。
Beijing placed a 25 percent tariff on American soybeans last week in retaliation for the Trump administration’s levies on Chinese-made goods. Last year, soy growers in the United States sold nearly one-third of their harvest to China. In dollar terms, only airplanes are a more significant American export to China, the world’s second-largest economy.
上周,为了报复特朗普政府对中国制造的商品征收关税,北京决定对美国大豆征收25%的关税。去年,美国的大豆种植者把近三分之一的收成卖给了中国。以美元计算,在美国向中国这个世界第二大经济体出口的产品中,只有飞机超过了它。
Still, soy-producing states like Iowa and Illinois might not feel the tariffs’ impact right away. China buys so much soy from the United States — $14 billion last year — that it can hardly switch to new suppliers overnight. Foreign-grown soybeans are a key source both of low-cost protein for feeding livestock and of cooking oil for Chinese kitchens.
不过,像艾奥瓦和伊利诺伊这样的大豆出产州,恐怕并不会立刻就感受到关税的冲击。中国从美国购买的大豆去年达到了140亿美元,如此大的数量使其很难在一夜之间就转向新的供应商。外国种植的大豆是牲畜饲料中的低成本蛋白质以及中国人厨房里的食用油的主要来源。
侯文林在2014年开办了林丰现代农机专业合作社。
侯文林在2014年开办了林丰现代农机专业合作社。 Gilles Sabrié for The New York Times
China is pressing its own farmers to grow more. But the math is daunting, and the obstacles are formidable.
中国正在敦促本国农民增加大豆的种植面积。但从数字上看形势令人气馁,并且面临巨大的困难。
Just ask Cao Xiumin. For the past 16 years, she has been growing corn and soybeans on a couple of acres near Xiaowusili, a village of about 600 people on China’s northeastern rim.
问问曹秀敏就知道了。在过去的16年时间里,她一直在小乌斯力附近的几英亩土地上种植玉米和大豆,这是中国东北边陲一个生活着大约600人的村子。
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Over all, she is not producing much more today than she was a decade ago. Her fields are small and not irrigated. The new, supposedly higher-yielding seeds promoted by the government are not much better than the older varieties, she says.
总体来说,她今天的产量并没有比十年前高出太多。她的地不大,也没有进行灌溉。她说,政府推广的所谓高产新种子没有比过去的那些品种高出多少。
“There isn’t any difference at all,” Ms. Cao said on a sweltering afternoon last week.
“没啥太大变化,”曹秀敏在上周一个闷热的下午说道。
Farm goods could be a big weakness for China should the trade conflict with the United States turn into an all-out brawl.
如果与美国的贸易冲突全面爆发,农产品可能会成为中国的一大弱点。
China’s increasingly wealthy people want more and better food on their plates. But the country’s farms are generally too small and underdeveloped to keep up.
越来越富裕的中国人希望盘子上有更多更好的食物。但这个国家的农场总体上规模太小,发展无法满足需求的增长。
正在磨玉米的农民。
正在磨玉米的农民。 Gilles Sabrié for The New York Times
Nearly 90 percent of the soybeans China consumed last year came from overseas — more than 100 million tons in total. (Mexico, the world’s No. 2 importer, bought just five million tons.)
中国去年消费的大豆中,近九成来自海外,总计超过一亿吨(墨西哥作为全球第二大进口国,仅购买了500万吨)。
Replacing even a chunk of those with homegrown beans may prove as herculean a task for China as weaning itself from American microchips.
即便是用国产大豆取代进口,对中国来说可能也是一项艰巨的任务,就像它摆脱对美国微芯片的依赖一样。
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This spring, after the Chinese government first proposed retaliatory tariffs on American soybeans, it got busy trying to dampen the potential blow to 1.4 billion stomachs.
今年春天首次提出对美国大豆征收报复性关税后,中国政府开始忙着降低此举对14亿中国人的胃可能带来的打击。
To increase the availability of other types of animal feed, China’s customs authority removed inspection requirements on a variety of agricultural byproducts, including peanut meal, cottonseed meal and rapeseed meal.
为了增加其他类型的动物饲料供应,中国海关取消了对各种农副产品的检验要求,包括花生粕、棉籽粕和菜籽粕。
Farmers here in Heilongjiang, China’s top soybean-producing province, also caught wind of an order from the authorities: Grow more soybeans. Immediately.
中国最大的大豆种植省份黑龙江的农民们也接到了政府的命令:种更多的大豆。马上就种。
中国小乌斯力,一位农民正在摘黄瓜。
中国小乌斯力,一位农民正在摘黄瓜。 Gilles Sabrié for The New York Times
As an incentive, the provincial government offered generous subsidies to farmers both for growing soybeans and for switching their fields to soy from corn.
作为激励,省政府向农民提供了慷慨的大豆补贴和玉米改种大豆轮作补贴。
Word of the new subsidies spread quickly on the social media app WeChat. And soon, many farmers were returning corn seeds and fertilizer they had already bought and planting soy instead.
新补贴的消息在社交媒体应用微信上迅速传开。很快,许多农民就把已经购买的玉米种子和化肥退了回去,改种大豆。
With all the government support, Guo Qiang, a 35-year-old farmer in the village of Dawusili, said that he would love to grow only soybeans, and no corn, on his family’s 50 acres. But his farm cooperative requires that members rotate their crops to keep the soil healthy.
大乌斯力村一名35岁的农民郭强说,有了政府的支持,他很愿意在家里50英亩的田里只种大豆,不种玉米。但他的合作农场要求成员轮种作物,以保证土地的肥沃。
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“If it weren’t for these policies, I would obviously grow more soybeans,” Mr. Guo said. “Especially with these big things happening between China and America — this trade war and whatever — I think the prospects are much better for soy than for corn.”
“如果没有这个轮作政策,我必然要种大豆,”郭强说。“尤其是中国跟美国国际大形式来讲,这个贸易战又啥的,我觉得大豆的前景还是比玉米要强得多。”
Even so, China would need to dedicate a huge fraction of the entire nation’s farmland — between a quarter and a third, by various estimates — to soy if it wanted to be self-sufficient.
即便如此,如果想自给自足,中国还需要将全国农用地的一大部分——依照不同统计,在四分之一至三分之一之间——用作种植大豆。
黑龙江省,农民正在磨玉米。
黑龙江省,农民正在磨玉米。 Gilles Sabrié for The New York Times
American farmers could still take a sizable hit in the long run if China’s tariffs prompt Brazil and other suppliers to expand their soy acreage, or if China bankrolls cultivation outside its borders. Many people from Heilongjiang are already growing soybeans across the Amur River in the Russian Far East, where land is cheap and plentiful.
长期来看,如果中国的关税导致巴西及其他供应国扩大大豆种植面积,或是如果中国为在其边境外种植提供资金,美国农民仍然会遭受相当大的打击。黑龙江许多人已经在黑龙江对岸的俄罗斯远东种植大豆,那里的土地充足,价格也便宜。
In 1969, fighting erupted between Soviet and Chinese troops along this border. But these days, relations are good and trade is brisk. In the border city of Heihe (pronounced “HEY-huh”), many street signs are written in both Chinese and Russian. In Xiaowusili (“SHYEEOW-oo-suh-lee”), the parks have trash cans painted to look like giant matryoshka nesting dolls.
1969年,苏联与中国军队曾在两国边境交火。但现如今,中俄两国关系良好,贸易往来繁忙。在边境城市黑河,许多街头的指示牌都是以中文和俄文标识的。在小乌斯力,公园有着被涂得俄罗斯套娃一般的垃圾桶。
China’s hunger for soybeans could deepen ties further. In a recent interview with the Chinese state news agency Xinhua, the head of a Russian soybean association said that the group was looking to team up with Chinese companies, and had set up an office in Heilongjiang’s provincial capital, Harbin, to attract investment.
中国对大豆的需求可能会让该国与俄罗斯的关系更为密切。在近期接受中国官方新闻社新华社的采访时,俄罗斯一家大豆协会的会长表示,该组织正希望与中国公司展开合作,并且已经在黑龙江省会哈尔滨设立了办公室,以吸引投资。
To reduce its dependence on American soy, Beijing could also try to squeeze more beans out of each acre at home. But farmers in Heilongjiang acknowledge they are a long way from being as productive as farmers in the United States, where agriculture is more mechanized and genetic modification is embraced.
为了减少对美国大豆的依赖,北京还可以试图提高国内每英亩土地的大豆产量。但黑龙江的农民承认,要达到与美国农民一样的产量,他们还有很长的路要走。美国的农业较为机械化,并且人们也接纳转基因大豆
China allows imports of genetically engineered crops, but Heilongjiang forbids farmers to grow them. Many people here harbor deep doubts about such products’ safety, both for people and for the land.
中国允许进口转基因作物,但黑龙江禁止农民种植它们。许多人对这类产品对人和土地的安全性存在很深的怀疑
曹秀敏正在检查一瓶杀虫剂。
曹秀敏正在检查一瓶杀虫剂。 Gilles Sabrié for The New York Times
“I wouldn’t grow them even if the government allowed it,” said Gai Yongfeng, the head of the Jiaxing farm cooperative in Dawusili. “They’re bad for the soil. After you’ve grown them somewhere, nothing else will grow there. That’s what everyone says.”
“我是不可能种,国家政策允许的话,”大乌斯力嘉兴合作社的负责人盖永峰说。“对土壤不好。以后种了别的不长了,大家都这么说。”
Around Heihe, some growers are trying to modernize in other ways.
在黑河附近,一些种植户正在试图用其他方式实现现代化。
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Hou Wenlin started the Linfeng Modern Agricultural Specialty Cooperative in 2014. He does not believe that China will be able to replace soy imports entirely.
侯文林在2014年开办了林丰现代农机专业合作社。他不相信中国能完全替换进口大豆。
“There’s no point,” Mr. Hou said. “It just can’t be done.”
“没有啥太大意义,”侯文林说。“不可能的事。”
He does, however, believe that China can grow soybeans more scientifically. In one of his cooperative’s fields, the soy grows in neat rows that are spaced farther apart to keep the plants at the right temperature and moisture. Each season, he plants a number of different types of seeds to understand how each performs. He has two drones for spraying pesticide.
然而,他确实认为中国能更科学地种植大豆。在他的合作社的一块田中,大豆一排排种得很整齐,每一排之间的间隔都很大,以保证作物能有适宜的温度和湿度。每一季,他都会播种下不同的种子,来了解每种的表现如何。他有两架喷洒杀虫剂的无人机。
Modern farming is expensive, however. And in Mr. Hou’s case, it involves a secret weapon: American technology.
但是,现代农业是很昂贵的。在侯文林这里,则涉及一个秘密武器:美国技术。
In front of the cooperative’s office is a yard full of bright-green John Deere farm machines, which Mr. Hou buys with the help of government subsidies. Chinese machinery is cheaper but more prone to breakdowns, he says.
在合作社办公室的前面,是一个放满了翠绿色强鹿(John Deere)农业机械的院子,侯文林是在政府补贴的帮助下买下它们的。他说,中国机械较为便宜,但却容易出故障。
Even some of the fertilizer Mr. Hou uses comes from the United States.
就连侯文林用的肥料也来自于美国。
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The Chinese equivalents are better now than they used to be. Earlier, though, there was something that was commonly said, according to Mr. Hou, among farmers around here who knew the chemical name of one of the most widely used plant foods:
中国的肥料如今比以前要好多了。但在过去,这里像侯文林这样的农民有一句俗话,用来评价一种被广泛用于种植的化学品:
“We rely first on the heavens,” the saying went. “We rely second on American diammonium phosphate.”
“一靠老天,”这句话说。“二靠美国老二胺(磷酸二胺)”。