Publication Type

Journal Article

Version

Preprint

Publication Date

4-2013

Abstract

The state-monopolised system of vegetable retail in socialist urban China has transformed into a market-based system run by profit-driven actors. Publicly owned wet markets not only declined in number after the state relegated its construction to market forces, but were also thoroughly privatised, becoming venues of capital accumulation for the market operators now controlling these properties. Self-employed migrant families replaced salaried state employees in the labour force. Governments’ increased control over urban public space reduced the room for informal markets, exacerbating the scarcity of vegetable retail space. Fragmentation in the production and wholesale systems restricted modern supermarkets’ ability to establish streamlined supply chains and made them less competitive than wet markets. The transformation of urban vegetable retail documented here shows both the advance that capital has made in re-shaping China’s agrifood system and the constraints that China’s socialist institutions impose on it. Shanghai’s experience also shows that the relative competitiveness of various retail formats is shaped by the state’s intervention in building market infrastructure and institutions.

Keywords

vegetable retail, food price, supermarkets, wet markets, urban space, China

Discipline

Agribusiness | Asian Studies | Sociology

Research Areas

Political Science

Publication

Journal of Contemporary Asia

Volume

43

Issue

3

First Page

497

Last Page

518

ISSN

0047-2336

Identifier

10.1080/00472336.2013.782224

Publisher

Taylor and Francis

Additional URL

http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/00472336.2013.782224

Comments

This research is supported by a research grant from the Singapore Management University’s Office of Research to the first author. We thank Professor JIANG Changjian of Fudan University and Ms. Lu Zhihua of Wujiaochang Town Government for facilitating the fieldwork. An earlier version of the paper was presented at the Sixth Annual Workshop of the Asian Network of Scholars of Local China (ANSLoC). We are grateful to participants of the workshop, including Professors Jae Ho Chung, Tse-Kang Leng, John DONALDSON, Hongyi Lai, Phil Hsu, Wai-Keung Chung, Eric Mobrand, and James Tang, for their valuable comments and suggestions. The authors are solely responsible for any errors.

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