While this isn’t an article about the fall of America, it would be foolhardy not to recognize the ascendancy of China and how it’s reshaping the world we live in.

While they don’t directly relate to beef trade or ag, recent events on the Korean Peninsula and with Iran and its nuclear ambitions illustrate not only how powerful China has become but how important it will be on the global stage moving forward. Fortunately, the U.S. and China share similar interests and our fortunes are somewhat tied to each other economically. But, while we aren’t likely to see our two powers engage in a Cold War-style battle, we also must realize our national interests aren’t exactly the same and there will continue to be tensions as spheres of influence and goals collide.

Nobody wants to see war on the Korean Peninsula, but an unstable and desperate dictator ruling over such extreme poverty next to the abundance of South Korea isn’t a very good recipe for stability. The recent torpedeoing of a South Korean naval vessel by North Korea illustrates just how fragile things are.

While no one would deny it as a blatant act of war, cooler heads have prevailed, primarily because there’s no consensus on an appropriate response. Sanctions haven’t proven overly effective to this point, and exerting more pressure on an increasingly desperate regime may be counterproductive. Any response is dependent on China and it seemingly prefers the status quo; one act of war may be ignored, but what happens if the second act occurs?

Then, of course, we have Iran and its nuclear ambitions, and China with its need to continue to fuel its growing economy. The result is that China isn’t pushing any meaningful actions.

But, the U.S. no longer can afford to act independently of China on the foreign stage, as we need them to finance our exploding deficits. We may be the world’s sole military superpower, but we don’t have the cash to act unilaterally; even if we did, any use of military power is restricted to China’s direct or tacit approval.

From an agricultural standpoint, especially beef, China represents a great opportunity; as its middle class continues to grow, so will the demand for beef. But market access or opportunities will increasingly be less about demand and more and more about how economic and national interests intersect.
-- Troy Marshall