China and Inner Asia
Organized Panel Session
This panel maps the politics of China’s emerging contemporary food system from different disciplinary, methodological, and topical angles. While food security, food safety, and the organization of the agricultural economy have historically presented the Chinese state and society with major challenges, examining these politics today reveals broader evolutions in China's political economy, ecology, civil society, class structure, and international relations. The emerging contemporary food system is jointly constructed by a wide range of actors and institutions, including state officials at various levels, firms, consumers, scientists, and farmers themselves. Although their interests, priorities, and goals align at certain temporal junctures and within particular endeavors, at other points, they conflict or contradict, often with unintended consequences. While all view food and agriculture as pressing concerns, multiple perspectives exist regarding how problems should be solved, and who is best equipped to solve them. We explore these questions through short presentations and a semi-structured panel discussion. Day situates the contemporary food system in relation to socialist-era institutions through his study of a county tea industry, while Schneider elaborates a political economy of the present through the lens of modern pork and Chinese agribusiness firms ‘going global.’ Coplin and Merrifield examine two leading and arguably contradictory proposals for secure, safe, sustainable, and environmentally-friendly food: Coplin considers the politics and social organization of agrobiotechnology, while Merrifield examines “green foods” and alternative food movements. Our different disciplinary perspectives enable us to expose the complex politics at work in the construction of China's agro-food system.