Is American Pork Ending Up In The Bellies Of Chinese Soldiers?

Communist China’s military could be reaping the benefits of the takeover of a U.S agricultural giant.

America’s largest pork producer was exporting massive quantities of pork to its Chinese “sister company” as it stockpiled food for the Chinese military, according to a Daily Caller News Foundation review of corporate records and Chinese state-run media reports.

Smithfield Foods, owner of roughly 150,000 acres of U.S. land and operator of dozens of feed mills and production plants, has shipped hundreds of thousands of tons of pork to its China-based parent company WH Group and sister company Shuanghui Investment and Development Co. (Shuanghui) since being acquired in 2013, according to corporate and Chinese government records as well as state-run media reports.

Shuanghui has extensive ties to the People’s Liberation Army (PLA), which it touts on its website, and is responsible for developing food for China’s military to use on the battlefield, according to the PLA-sponsored China Military News.

Shuanghui also operates a food “mobilization center” for the PLA in Henan province, and has done so since 2009, according to a 2022 Shuanghui news release. Shuanghui’s mobilization center stockpiles food, including pork, to meet the PLA’s emergency response needs, and Chinese state-run reports indicate that Shuanghui has distributed food from this stockpile to Chinese soldiers on several occasions in recent years.

A December 2023 report from the Luohe municipal government in Henan province indicates the military stockpile is still active and under Shuanghui’s management.

While Shuanghui doesn’t disclose where the pork it supplies the PLA originates from, it’s very likely that at least some U.S. pork product is being supplied to the PLA, according to Brian O’Shea, a former military and intelligence analyst.

“My opinion would be that the Chinese government is giving this superior U.S. pork to their soldiers,” O’Shea told the DCNF based on his understanding of Smithfield’s central role in Shuanghui’s pork supply chain and Shuanghui’s extensive relationship with the PLA.

“At these mobilization centers, there’s going to be a Smithfield pile and a Chinese domestic pork pile, and the Chinese domestic pork is most likely going to the civilians, whereas the superior pork is going to the Chinese military,” O’Shea said.

Neither Smithfield nor Shuanghui responded to multiple requests for comment.

‘A Unified State’

WH Group acquired Smithfield in 2013 for $7.1 billion. At the time, WH Group Chairman Wan Long said the acquisition would allow his companies to “meet the growing demand in China for pork by importing high-quality meat products from the United States,” adding the merger “provided Smithfield the opportunity to expand its offering of products to China through Shuanghui’s distribution network.”

The DCNF recently reported that WH Group’s chairman and four other executives are Chinese Communist Party (CCP) members. WH Group’s chairman and several top executives also hold, or previously held, positions with the Chinese government, the DCNF found.

WH Group’s leadership includes both Shuanghui and Smithfield executives, according to Reuters.

In 2013, the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission’s annual report characterized Smithfield’s acquisition by WH Group as “part of a broader trend of Chinese global investment in farm assets or food technologies.”

“China’s acquisitions in agriculture and other sectors are being driven by the desire to secure higher volumes of safe products and, in the long term, access to advanced production and processing technologies,” the commission wrote in its report.

“We’ve got to remember that China is a unified state,” Gordon Chang, distinguished senior fellow at the Gatestone Institute, told the DCNF. “It operates under the direction of the Communist Party, which demands absolute obedience from all individuals and all entities.”

Since 2013, Smithfield’s exports to China have exponentially increased. Shuanghui constructed a $110 million Smithfield-branded factory in China in 2015 that exclusively processes U.S.-raised Smithfield pork, and the company developed an e-commerce portal in 2017 that sells Smithfield products.

In the wake of these developments, Smithfield’s pork exports to China exploded from roughly 83,000 tons in 2018 to approximately 335,000 tons in 2020, according to S&P Global Market Intelligence data obtained by the DCNF.

Click here to view S&P Global Market Intelligence infographic U.S. Exports of Pork Linked to Smithfield (tons)

“There was an unusual increase in sales of entire swine carcasses to China during 2019,” according to a U.S. Department of Agriculture Economic Research Service report. “This increase reflects the retooling of at least one U.S. Smithfield Foods plant to produce carcasses for shipment to a plant in China that had excess processing capacity due to the shortage of hogs in the country.”

Shuanghui “used excess capacity in its Chinese plant to make processed products from the carcasses,” the report added.

Between 2015 and 2020, 80% of Shuanghui’s imported meat came from Smithfield, Chinese state-run media outlet The Paper reported. Shuanghui characterized Smithfield as its “primary” pork supplier that same year.

Since then, Smithfield has continued to export hundreds of thousands of tons of pork to China. S&P Global Market Intelligence’s data shows Smithfield sent 242,672 tons of pork to China in 2021 and 124,886 tons in 2022. Smithfield exports to China hit 101,791 tons in 2023, the data shows.

A November 2023 financial briefing published by Chinese state-run firm Guosen Securities, which used data from compliance reports, forecast that Shuanghui will continue to rely on Smithfield pork imports for the foreseeable future.

“Shuanghui Development’s meat product offerings are expected to rely on the importation of Smithfield Foods’ Western products, and the synergy of the two large platforms will increasingly arise,” Guosen Securities reported.

‘My Love Spills Into Every Army Base’

While Smithfield has been sending pork to Shuanghui, the Henan-based company was supplying the PLA, according to corporate records seen by the DCNF. In fact, Shuanghui’s relationship with the PLA predates WH Group’s acquisition of Smithfield.

In 2008, the Chinese government proposed that large enterprises assist in creating provincial military stockpiles for various goods like food at so-called “mobilization centers,” and, shortly thereafter, Shuanghui officials applied for the firm to establish a “Non-Staple Foods Mobilization Center,” according to a PLA Daily article that was reposted by Chinese news outlet Sina.

The PLA first called upon Shuanghui’s mobilization center in June 2009 while it was still under construction, asking for assistance in delivering 10 types of foods to Chinese soldiers approximately 125 miles away, PLA Daily reported.

Shuanghui’s mobilization center “integrates the military with the civilian” and “blends peacetime and wartime” in order to “guarantee an emergency response,” according to an archived December 2009 company news release.

That same month, Shuanghui head Wan Long, who also heads WH Group, presided over the opening ceremony of the firm’s mobilization center, which several high-ranking Chinese military personnel attended, according to the archived post.

By 2015, the mobilization center reportedly employed more than 2,200 veterans. These veterans routinely simulate emergency situations, such as delivering food goods to front-line positions in wartime, according to state-run China News.

Shuanghui President Ma Xiangjie, who sits on WH Group’s board and is a CCP member, serves as the mobilization center’s director, according to a company announcement from December 2022. In that same announcement, the company touted that the PLA had named Ma Xiangjie as one of Henan’s “Top 10 Military Supporters.”

Company and Chinese military records reviewed by the DCNF indicate that PLA officers have inspected Shuanghui’s mobilization center multiple times in recent years. During a December 2021 inspection, PLA officers presented Ma Xiangjie with a ceremonial banner that read: “My heart is bound to the Great Wall of steel, my love spills into every army base.”

A December 2022 Shuanghui announcement states the company’s mobilization center had at some point prior “successfully developed an ABC set meal series of military rations.” The U.S. Army describes A-rations as “perishable foods,” B-rations as “nonperishable foods” and C-rations as a “balanced meal in a can.”

Wan Long and Ma Xiangjie did not respond to multiple requests for comment.

‘Food Security’

Chinese social media posts show Shuanghui has on multiple occasions distributed pork from its mobilization center to Chinese military personnel.

In February 2020, for instance, Shuanghui announced it had donated meat to the PLA as well as Wuhan military medical staff working on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic. Shuanghui’s announcement featured photographs of the firm’s truck delivering boxes of pork sausages to PLA soldiers.

Smithfield exported at least 335,411 tons of pork to China in 2020, S&P data shows.

Chinese government documents show that Smithfield was sending pork directly to Shuanghui during the pandemic. China’s General Administration of Customs reporting it had rejected approximately 27 tons of Smithfield “frozen bone-in pork” sent to a Shuanghui subsidiary sometime before August 2020, citing an issue with the shipment’s certificate of goods.

Shuanghui has also bragged about donating medical supplies to the PLA during the pandemic.

In fact, People’s Daily, which is the CCP’s official media arm, reported in February 2020 that Shuanghui had launched a global campaign to procure medical supplies for the Chinese military. China’s State Council supported Shuanghui by helping medical supplies obtained abroad pass smoothly through customs, People’s Daily reported.

“In the early stages of the COVID-19 outbreak, WH Group’s subsidiary Shuanghui Development purchased anti-epidemic materials, including protective clothing, isolation gowns, masks and goggles overseas to support front-line medical staff in Hubei Province,” reads an English-language version of an April 2020 WH Group release. “Shuanghui also donated living materials and epidemic prevention materials to military medical workers at Wuhan Huoshenshan Hospital through the Luohe military sub-district.”

Moreover, the People’s Daily article also features a photo of a Smithfield truck outside a warehouse with a caption reading “overseas procurement” and credits Shuanghui for the picture.

Other images show what appears to be a Caucasian man moving rectangular boxes purportedly full of medical supplies with a forklift and a UPS plane on a tarmac beside pallets of boxes. Another photo appears to show workers and delivery trucks at Shuanghui’s headquarters preparing to deliver supplies to the Chinese military, as reported in a Shuanghui corporate release less than a week later.

“The Chinese Communist Party is increasingly focused on acquiring, illicitly or otherwise, agricultural technologies and supply chains,” Wisconsin Republican Rep. Mike Gallagher, chair of the House Select Committee on the CCP, told the DCNF. “We must strengthen our food security before it is too late.”

‘Chinese Communist Control’

Shuanghui also apparently agreed to supply a Chinese state-owned defense firm with Smithfield products, according to a 2022 Shuanghui Chinese social media post to which the company’s website also links.

During a November 2022 conference in Guangdong province, Shuanghui signed a strategic partnership agreement with the Aviation Industry Corporation of China (AVIC) to manufacture customized products in order to “support the rapid development of China’s aviation industry,” according to a company social media post.

Photos from the November 2022 event appear to show Smithfield bacon alongside other Shuanghui products involved in the defense contractor deal. The U.S. government sanctioned AVIC in 2021 “for operating or having operated in the defense and related materiel sector of the economy of the PRC.”

“People are just now starting to understand the consequences of the naïve policymaking that dominated Washington for the past couple decades,” Florida Republican Sen. Marco Rubio told the DCNF. “Chinese communist control of American businesses is a challenge we have to confront before a crisis.”



Daily Caller News Foundation investigative reporter, political journalist, and China watcher. Twitter: @LenczyckiPhilip


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