"China's inability to meet all the increased demand from domestic production renders exciting opportunities to food exporting countries such as Australia," glowed a 2012 report on China's booming appetite for food imports by the Australia's Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry.
That trend isn't likely to reverse in the short term.
China's political leaders have several reasons to remain intently focused on raising wages, not the least because their power relies on maintaining the momentum of rising living standards to avoid social unrest. The goal of keeping incomes rising — or at least maintaining the prospect of a better standard of living — is a critical element to the regime's support among China's 1.4 billion people.
The pledge was repeated in 2012 when the outgoing regime of President Hu Jintao pledged to double household incomes within a decade.
Beijing's economic policy makers are also hoping that rising disposable incomes will also help wean the economy off the heavy investments in infrastructure and state-owned companies that have been the main driver of China's economy for over a decade. Those heavy investments have left China with a massive pile of bad debt and reliance on state investment that many observers say is unsustainable over the long run.
Despite rising wages, consumer spending as a share of China's economy has been falling for the last six decades — from 76 of gross domestic product in 1952 to some 28 percent in 2011, according to a report this year by economists at the Demand Institute.
"That fall will soon flatten out," the authors wrote. "Without a substantial intervention, however, we believe consumption's share of China's economy is unlikely to rise substantially before 2025."
Video produced by Qin Chen, Kurumi Fukushima, Zack Guzman and Brandon Ancil
Animation by Stephanie Swart