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Why we could all be eating Chinese cheese very soon

Tom Belger
Finance and policy reporter
European cheese could face far greater competition from China. Photo: NurPhoto/SIPA USA/PA Images

European and US consumers could be eating far more Chinese cheese in years to come, according to the head of one of China’s leading dairy firms.

Another Chinese business leader also said globalisation was “unstoppable” and “irreversible” in a bold message to the global elite gathered at the Davos summit in Switzerland.

Jeffery Lu Minfang, CEO of the Mengniu Group dairy giant, said at a panel discussion on the fourth industrial revolution: “China is becoming an experimental laboratory to come up with new models.

“If you look at the Chinese dairy industry, it’s already the most open in the world.

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“In other countries it’s really protected. In Europe, New Zealand, Australia, France or the US, you produce and pasteurise milk locally, and sell in local markets.

“But China is such a big market, China’s going to drive the flows of our market goods.

“There’ll be more and more cooperation with other countries’ dairy industries. In terms of supply chains, it’s going to be more integrated.”

He outlined how technology had transformed China’s dairy sector over the past decade, with “unimaginable” levels of digitalisation in milk pasteurisation and factories.

“We have 1.5m to 2m cows in China. We know where to milk them, how much each produces, where it’s going every day. This is going to drive changes in the global supply chain.”

A session on China and the fourth industrial revolution at Davos.Photo: World Economic Forum

Song Zhiping, chair of the board of the China National Building Material Group Corporation, also said globalisation should be a two-way process.

He said: “The trend of globalisation is unstoppable. And free trade is globalisation. Free trade is irreversible.

“In the past we were asked to open our market. Today we are fighting unilateralism and protectionism, and calling upon others to open their markets.”

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He added: “Over the last year, the growth of imports exceeded that of exports. So we think China’s becoming the market of the world, it’s no longer just the factory of the world.

“We welcome multinationals, but I think multinationals need the market of China.”