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ACIAR works with China to deliver agricultural research projects in Asia.
A man in holding wheat in a field in China

Australia has largely phased out bilateral aid to China.  A small number of ongoing projects provide targeted assistance, including a human rights technical co-operation program and a program helping to strengthen the health system in the Tibet Autonomous Region.  In recognition of China’s growing role as an aid donor, Australia and China signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) for a Development Cooperation Partnership in 2013.  The MoU facilitates Australia and China co-operating on shared objectives.  The first project under the MoU, targeting malaria in Papua New Guinea, began in 2016.  Climate change is an emerging area of co-operation between Australia and China.  We have a Bilateral Climate Change Partnership initiated by a 2004 MoU and enhanced by a 2014 MoU, which provides for an annual Ministerial Dialogue and practical, collaborative projects in areas of mutual interest.

—China Country Brief (DFAT)


China is the most populated country in the world and the third largest economy after the United States and the European Union.  Over the past 30 years, China has moved from Communism to a Socialist market economy. 

Although one of the world’s largest economies, China faces ongoing economic difficulties, many related to unbalanced development.

The Chinese government wants to end poverty by 2020.  It has lifted over 700 million people out of poverty, including 10 million in 2016 alone.  At the end of 2015, 55.75 million people still lived under the poverty line (China Statistical Yearbook 2016).

Agriculture is the foundation of China’s economy, and food security ensures the country’s stability.  In 2016, China released its 13th Five-Year Plan for Economic and Social Development (2016–2020), which sets forth China’s strategic intentions and defines its major objectives, tasks and measures for economic and social development for the next five years.  The Plan states that by 2020 China will maintain a medium–high rate of growth to ensure its 2010 GDP, that residents’ per capita personal income will double, and that the ratio of the research and development expenditure will increase to 2.5% of the GDP.

The main features and targets of the Plan relevant to agriculture include:

  • Improving grain production
  • Promoting agricultural structural adjustments
  • Developing primary, secondary and tertiary industries in rural areas
  • Ensuring farm product quality and safety
  • Developing eco-friendly agriculture.

For the past 14 years China’s No. 1 Central Government Document has always been on agriculture.  (The No. 1 document is the first document China’s central government releases every year.)  The 2017 No. 1 Document, released in February, says that supply should be reformed to increase farmers’ incomes and ensure effective supply.  Years of good harvests ended a food shortage period, but structural problems remain; some produce is over-supplied while some in short supply. The main features of the Document are:

  • Improving quality and efficiency in agricultural production
  • Developing highly efficient animal husbandry and aquaculture
  • Improving the overall quality of farm produce and food safety
  • Building modern agribusiness parks
  • Reducing the use of chemical fertilisers and insecticide
  • Launching large-scale water-saving programs
  • Promoting e-commerce in rural areas
  • Strengthening research and development and extension
  • Implementing precision poverty reduction measures to ensure that another 10 million people are lifted out of poverty.

The China–Australia Free Trade Agreement entered into force in December 2015.  ACIAR’s program in China targets strategic partnerships and improving the sustainability of agricultural production.  Research focuses on better managing livestock, land and water resources in north-western China and crop–livestock systems in the Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR).

The research design also covers the need to raise farmers’ incomes through increased productivity and marketability of produce. To reach those most affected by poverty and land degradation, the program will increasingly target rainfed crop–livestock systems, and ACIAR and its Chinese partners will engage in joint regional- and national-level research initiatives.

As China is a large and emerging economy with a substantial agricultural research network and capacity, ACIAR will explore opportunities for partnerships with other countries in the region.  This is consistent with the Chinese government’s aims.  These opportunities for mutual research collaboration will be more appropriate as China develops.

All ACIAR activities in China involve substantial co-investment from the Chinese partners.  The Chinese national agricultural research system has significant human and financial resources that benefit Australia.


ACIAR consults with China to prioritise research collaboration.  ACIAR meets with senior leaders and researchers from the Ministry of Science and Technology and Ministry of Agriculture and Water Resources, the Chinese Academy of Sciences, the Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences, universities and provincial authorities. ACIAR will work with its Chinese stakeholders to ensure that newly developed projects align with the new policies set out in the 13th Five-Year Plan.

The medium-term priorities for ACIAR’s China program are:

  • developing policies and institutions to manage grasslands
  • integrating crop–livestock systems in favourable areas of TAR and the rangelands of north-western China.