President Xi Jinping has said China must establish a “strategic baseline” to ensure self-sufficiency in key commodities, from energy to soybeans, as secure supply of primary products moves up the country’s long-term agenda. At the central economic work conference last week, Beijing identified secure supply of primary goods such as agricultural products, minerals and energy as one of five “significant theoretical and practical issues” to prepare for amid the Covid-19 pandemic and changing international relations. The four other government priorities were “common prosperity” , capital regulation, defusing major financial risks and carbon neutrality. [We] should fortify the national strategic materials reserve system to secure minimum needs at critical moments Xi Jinping Establishing a “comprehensive conservation strategy” was also needed to prevent resource shortages, which could turn into a “grey rhino” risk – an obvious yet ignored threat – for the world’s No 2 economy. While China can meet its commodity needs from both foreign and domestic markets, the government must establish a “safety line” for the size of imports that cannot be exceeded, Xi said. “We should make clear the strategic baseline of self-sufficiency in key energy resources,” Xi was quoted as saying at the annual tone-setting economic conference, according to an article published in the party-run People’s Daily on Sunday. “[We] should fortify the national strategic materials reserve system to secure minimum needs at critical moments.” Although known as the world’s factory and the globe’s largest goods exporter, China increasingly relies on imports for a range of products vital to its economy, such as soybeans, iron ore, crude oil, natural gas, copper, bauxite and gold mines – sometimes for up to 80 per cent of supply. Soybeans became a major battleground between China and the United States during the Trump-era trade war, and have been viewed as a weak link in food security . Dependence on foreign iron ore has also drawn rising attention due to ongoing trade friction with Australia. Meanwhile, pandemic-driven disruptions to global supply chains have driven up energy prices and added to concerns about inflation and energy security. “Great shortages of primary commodities are likely to evolve into a grey rhino,” Han Wenxiu, a deputy director of the Communist Party’s Central Committee for Financial and Economic Affairs, said at a forum on Saturday. Xi told the state officials and provincial heads that “for a big country like us, ensuring the supply of primary products is a significant strategic problem”, according to the People’s Daily. On grain security , Xi said China’s “arable land area is reducing” and cash crops were being favoured over cereals and legumes. “The more food we have, the more we should think about the time of no grain,” the president said. “I have repeatedly said Chinese people’s rice bowls should be firmly held in our own hands, never let others take us by the throat on eating, which is a basic survival issue.” China makes another change to its diplomatic line-up on US relations At the work conference, Beijing doubled down on “stability” as the economic priority for 2022, ahead of the Winter Olympics and the 20th National Party Congress – a key political event that will usher in a twice-a-decade leadership reshuffle. Central authorities pledged to “front-load” support policies amid economic headwinds, and to recalibrate local governments’ approach in implementing national strategies. Xi’s comments in the People’s Daily offered more detail on policies announced after the conference, including on infrastructure investment. Among the items on the governments to-do list was “speeding up the renewal of ageing urban pipelines”. Deadly gas pipeline explosions have frequently erupted this year, including most recently at Shenyang in October and in Shiyan in June, the latter of which killed 25 people. The State Council had previously unveiled a five-year plan to build a green and smart cold-chain logistics system, aimed at boosting domestic consumption of cold-chain products under the inward-looking “dual-circulation” strategy . Xi also called on local cadres to adjust their approach in implementing national carbon emission targets, which have been partly blamed for a widespread power crunch that crippled parts of the economy in recent months. “[We] should make the direction right, make the focus clear … should prevent the ‘devil in the details’ hurting the overall situation,” Xi said.