Tang Renjian, China’s top fisheries official, under investigation for graft

China Agriculture and Rural Affairs Minister Tang Renjian
China Agriculture and Rural Affairs Minister Tang Renjian | Photo courtesy of WikiMedia Commons
4 Min

China Agriculture and Rural Affairs Minister Tang Renjian, who has overseen China’s fisheries sector since 2021, is under investigation for alleged graft.

Renjian is “suspected of serious violations of Communist Party discipline and the law and is currently undergoing disciplinary review and supervisory investigation,” China’s Central Commission for Discipline Inspection said on its website Saturday, 18 May. The commission did not specify any alleged actions for which Tang is being investigated.

Tang has been swept up in a large anti-graft effort being led by the commission, which has already targeted 10 other delegates to the Chinese Communist Party’s National People’s Congress. Others under investigation include former Beijing Deputy Mayor Gao Peng, former Bank of China Chairman Liu Liange and Cui Maohu, the former director of the National Religious Affairs Administration, according to the South China Morning Post.

Tang oversaw a budget that included subsidies for fishing and aquaculture companies. In 2023, Tang led a burst of post-pandemic diplomatic activity focused on agricultural and fishery cooperation with developing nations, particularly in the Pacific.

While most fishery policy has been handled by deputy Chinese Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs Vice Minister Ma Youxiang, Tang himself visited Papua New Guinea and the Seychelles in 2023 to discuss fisheries cooperation. He also met with his Cambodian counterpart in the southerly Chinese city of Nanning in 2023 to discuss increasing shipments of Cambodian rice and seafood into China.

For decades, China has made vast subsidy payments to its agriculture sector to encourage mechanization of the food production sector, and seafood companies have received government-directed lending from state-owned banks. But, the system has been plagued by corruption and fraud, with numerous officials jailed for bilking payments to be used for the purchase and storage of grain. 

Tang’s last public appearance came on 15 May at an agriculture industry conference in Xianyang, in the northwest province of Shaanxi. Tang has been seen as effectively implementing Chinese President Xi Jinping’s goal for the country to ensure greater food security, focusing on better use and expansion of farming acreage and uptake of technology.

Tang isn’t the only high-profile Chinese agriculture official in the spotlight recently.

Deutsche Welle investigation suggested China has been placing officials into international organizations to achieve Chinese policy goals. According to the German broadcaster, Qu Dongyu, the head of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) since 2019, has placed Chinese officials, supervised by the Communist Party, into top directorships at the FAO. Under Qu’s watch, the organization has approved pesticides harmful to the environment and human health for export to Africa, according to the DW report.

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