To see why China may struggle to achieve high-tech self-reliance, visit an industrial chicken farm
要了解中国为何可能难以在高科技领域实现自给自足,可以去一个工业化养鸡场走走

鸡和蛋 Chicken and egg-书迷号 shumihao.com

IT TAKES AN effort—a small hardening of the heart—to see day-old Jinghai Poultry chicks for what they are. These, for all their plaintive cheeping and soft, fuzzy plumage, are tiny, high-performance meat factories. The product of decades of genetic research in American and European laboratories, they hatch in China thanks to global supply chains, involving the air-freighting of eggs and chicks between secure breeding sites on five continents.
你得努把力——硬下点心肠——才能去看京海禽业养殖场里初生的小鸡仔。这些叽叽哀鸣、软乎乎、毛茸茸的小家伙们却是高效的微型肉厂。它们是美国和欧洲的实验室几十年遗传学研究的产物。因为有全球供应链在五大洲的安全育种点之间空运鸡蛋和小鸡,它们才能在中国孵化。

Those chains are more fragile than once supposed. Animal diseases, the US-China trade war and covid-19 have all disrupted, or threatened to disrupt, industrial chicken supplies. That makes those chicks a window onto something interesting: China’s increasingly complicated relationship with high-tech globalisation, a force that has made the country more prosperous, but also reliant on the outside world in ways that trouble Communist Party bosses.
这些供应链比之前想象的更脆弱。动物疫病、中美贸易战和新冠病毒都已经扰乱或可能扰乱工业化的鸡肉供应。因此,透过这些小鸡可以观察到一个有趣的现象:中国与高科技全球化之间日益复杂的关系。这种高科技全球化让中国更加繁荣,但也让它依赖于外部世界,而这困扰着共产党的领导们。

The unsentimental logic of high-performance poultry-rearing is easy to grasp. Standing this week in the loading bay of a factory farm in the coastal province of Jiangsu, Chaguan heard Jinghai executives explain how “white-feather meat chickens”, as they are known in China, grow to 2.5kg in 40 days. Homegrown varieties of “yellow-feather chicken”, descended from backyard fowl, take twice as long to mature and will only ever weigh half as much. Clients collect cardboard trays holding 102 chicks, peeking through slats in the sides. Four trays can generate a tonne of chicken.
高效家禽养殖的冰冷逻辑很容易理解。最近在沿海省份江苏一家养殖场的装货区,本专栏记者听京海禽业的高管解释了这些在中国被称为“白羽肉鸡”的小鸡是如何在40天内长到2.5公斤的。本土的“黄羽鸡”源自人们在自家后院喂养的“走地鸡”,它们的生长期长一倍,长成后也只有白羽鸡的一半重。客户们来取走装着102只小鸡的硬纸板托盘,透过两边板条的缝隙可以看到里头的小鸡。四托盘小鸡能产一吨鸡肉。

Nor is China’s interest in cheap protein mysterious. Half a century ago meat was a rare luxury. Now, many see it as a daily necessity. In the meantime, the country’s supplies of farmland and clean water have not grown. Agriculture remains blighted by food-safety scandals, the rampant use of fake or illegal animal medicines, and disease outbreaks. Small surprise, then, that Chinese leaders give frequent speeches about food security. A puzzle lurks, though. Leaders also call for self-reliance in key technologies. And in the case of broiler chickens, those two ambitions—rearing meat efficiently and avoiding dependence on imports—are in tension.
中国对价格低廉的蛋白质的兴趣也不难理解。半个世纪前肉是难得的奢侈品。现在许多人把吃肉视为日常必需。与此同时,中国的农场和洁净水供应并没有增加。农业仍然受食品安全丑闻、假劣或非法兽药泛滥,以及疫病的影响。因此,中国领导人经常就粮食安全问题发表讲话也不足为奇。不过这里潜藏着一个难题。领导们还呼吁在关键技术上自给自足。而在肉鸡的问题上,高效饲养肉禽和避免依赖进口这两大雄心是有冲突的。

The chicks cheeping at Chaguan are the fifth-generation descendants of pedigree birds whose bloodlines represent 80 years of selection for such traits as efficient food-to-meat conversion, rapid growth, strong leg bones and disease resistance. After waves of consolidation, the industry is dominated by two firms, Aviagen (based in Alabama and owned by the EW Group of Germany) and Cobb (owned by Tyson, an American poultry giant).
这些冲着记者叽叽叫的小鸡是纯种鸡的第五代后代,纯种鸡的血统代表了80年来人们对高饲料转换率、快速生长、强健的腿骨和抗病能力等特性的选择。经过一波又一波的整合,这一行业目前由两家公司主导:安伟捷(Aviagen,总部位于阿拉巴马州,为德国EW集团所有)和科宝(Cobb,美国禽业巨头泰森[Tyson]旗下公司)。

The most valuable pedigree birds never leave maximum-security farms in America and Britain: a single pedigree hen may generate 4m direct descendants. Their second-generation offspring are flown to breeding sites dispersed between such places as Brazil, Britain and New Zealand, in part to hedge against supply shocks when avian influenzas and other diseases close borders. Day-old third-generation chicks are air-freighted to local partners such as Jinghai, which spend six months growing them and breeding them in climate-controlled, artificially lit indoor facilities. In all, China imports 1.6m third-generation white-feather chicks a year.
最珍贵的纯种鸡从未离开过位于美国和英国防备森严的养殖场:一只纯种母鸡也许能产出四百万只直系后代。它们的第二代后代被空运到分散在巴西、英国和新西兰等地的育种点,一定程度上是为防范禽流感等疫病导致边境关闭时对供应的冲击。刚出生一天的第三代雏鸡被空运到京海等地方合作伙伴那里,京海将花六个月的时间在控温控湿、人工照明的室内养殖场中培育它们。中国每年总共进口160万只第三代白羽鸡。

Jinghai hatches 8m fourth-generation, “parent stock” chickens annually. The company sells some to other agri-businesses. It breeds from the rest to produce fifth-generation chicks like those cheeping at Chaguan. These are “meat chickens”, consumed in fast-food outlets, schools and factory canteens, or as chicken parts sold in supermarkets. Yellow-feather chickens, deemed tastier by Chinese cooks, account for most whole birds sold in markets.
京海每年孵化800万只四代鸡,即父母代种鸡。它将其中一些卖给其他农业企业,再从剩下的四代鸡中繁殖出第五代小鸡,也就是冲着记者叽叽叫的那些。这些就是肉鸡,在快餐店、学校和工厂食堂被食用,或是在超市分割出售。中国厨师认为黄羽鸡更美味,市场上出售的整鸡中黄羽鸡占大多数。

Chinese breeders have long tried to create local varieties with bloodlines available in-country. Breeding from imported third- or fourth-generation chickens is a bad solution: their genes are less desirable than those of their elite grandparents, making them a poor starting-point for a new variety. In September the State Council, China’s cabinet, issued a paper on livestock-rearing that set self-sufficiency in poultry as a goal, calling meat-chicken breeding a priority. Big foreign firms have resisted appeals from officials to send second-generation stock to China. A poultry firm with 10% of the domestic market, Fujian Sunner, says it has bred all-Chinese broilers: their performance is a source of some debate.
长期以来,中国育种专家一直想用可在国内获得的种系培育出本土鸡种。从进口的第三代或第四代鸡中繁殖不是个好办法:它们的基因不像祖辈精英的基因那么理想,用它们繁殖新品种就输在了起跑线上。今年9月,中国国务院发布了一份关于畜牧业的文件,以家禽自给为目标,重点开展肉鸡育种攻关。外国大公司拒绝了中国政府官员的恳求,不愿向中国提供第二代种鸡。占有10%国内市场份额的禽业公司福建圣农称,他们已经培育出了首个纯中国血统的肉鸡品种:它们的性能引发了一些争议。

Dependence on foreign bloodlines does carry risks. For several months recently New Zealand was one of the only countries able to send third-generation chicks to China, after other exporters suffered bird-flu outbreaks. Li Jinghui, president of the China Broiler Alliance, an industry association, calls conditions ripe for China’s “brilliant” scientists to develop local birds. Mr Li adds that Chinese diners do not share the West’s love of breast meat and think chicken feet a delicacy, so that Chinese-bred broilers might have bigger thighs and feet. But Mr Li suggests that the government’s aim is diversifying meat supplies, rather than literal self-sufficiency. Let Chinese and foreign chicken breeds compete like Huawei and Apple smartphones, he urges: market forces should decide the result.
依赖外国鸡种确实有风险。最近几个月,其他出口国遭遇禽流感爆发,新西兰是仅剩的能够向中国出口第三代雏鸡的国家之一。行业协会中国白羽肉鸡联盟的总裁李景辉认为,中国“优秀的”科学家培育本土肉鸡新品种的条件已经成熟。李景辉补充说,中国人不像西方人那样爱吃鸡胸肉,并且觉得鸡爪是种美味,所以中国培育的肉鸡或许可以有更大的鸡腿和鸡爪。但他表示,政府的目标是让肉类供应多样化,而不是一味地自给自足。他呼吁让中国和外国的鸡种像华为和苹果的智能手机那样竞争,结果应当由市场力量决定。

Don’t even ask about animal rights
动物权利问都别问

Wang Hongsheng, a boss at Jinghai, admits to fretting about interruptions to chick supplies, even wondering if President Donald Trump might curb American exports. But to develop a domestic breed from scratch would take years, and if it does not meet market needs, a firm could spend a fortune “without much to show for it”.
京海的总经理王宏胜承认担心种鸡供应中断,甚至担心特朗普是否会限制美国的出口。但是,从头开始培育一个本土品种需要多年时间,而且如果不能满足市场需求,企业可能会花了一大笔钱却打了水漂。

High-tech chickens are not as sleek as high-speed trains or as clever as quantum computers. Still, they are a case study of why self-reliance is hard. China’s poultry market has room to grow: Westerners each eat far more chicken than Chinese do. But without a stronger animal-health system and environmental controls, biotechnology alone cannot help China to develop world-class agriculture. Moreover, a long-standing Chinese strategy—bullying foreign firms to hand over intellectual property—is counter-productive now. Western trust in China is low, and official talk of self-sufficiency is one cause. The politics of globalisation get tricky when one side feels it is being readied for the pot.■
高科技鸡不像高铁那样光鲜亮丽,也不像量子计算机那样智能。尽管如此,这仍然是一个研究自力更生何以困难的案例。中国的家禽市场还有增长空间:西方人均摄入的鸡肉远比中国人多。但是,如果没有更强大的动物健康系统和环境控制,单靠生物技术无法帮助中国发展出世界级的农业。此外,中国长期以来强迫外国公司交出知识产权的策略现在适得其反。西方对中国的信任度很低,而官方自给自足的说法是原因之一。当一方觉得自己成了被宰杀的鸡时,全球化的政治局势就变得棘手起来。