For decades throughout the 20th century, the idea of famine had two dominant uses in the West.

The first was proof of the Christian ideal that "the poor you will always have with you", thus re-affirming the eternal need for charity, and the limited usefulness of political struggle -- the second was to reaffirm a vaguely or explicitly racialist and Malthusian notion that the dusky-skinned two thirds of the world really couldn't manage themselves that well, and were doomed to over-breeding and starvation. Before the Second World War, China was the locus for this concern/panic -- in various famines until the 1949 revolution, children would be exchanged between families to be eaten, or sold in the marketplace.