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Tropes of Change

Abhishek Pratap Singh

By Jiehong Zhou and Shaosheng Jin  
World Scientific, Singapore, 2013, pp. xi 240, $88.00


In the post-economic reform era the Chinese society has witnessed the emergence of newly rich class enjoying the benefits of economic prosperity. There is growing awareness over delivery of services, quality of products, protection of legal rights, i.e., based on the weiquan movement of early 2000s, as argued by Jonathan Benney (2013) in his celebrated work Defending Rights in Contemporary China. In recent years China has taken a number of effective measures to strengthen the supervision of food quality and safety measures. However, the greatest obstacle to China’s food quality safety management is that China’s ‘farm to fork’ food supply chain has too many stages, the members on the supply chain have not formed a stable and consistent relation and lack a sense of social responsibility. In their overview the authors point to the interesting shift in China’s food safety issues gradually expanding from being a ‘quantity to quality security’ concern (p. 4). In addition, the frequent incidents of low quality food products points to the serious problem of the illegal use of food additives, agrochemical residues, and polluted soils and waters in China (p. 12). The authors argue that China’s intractable food safety problems may have implications for its global image compromising national self-esteem. The book notes the importance of law in China for providing a regulatory framework for food safety management. In particular, during the ‘Fifteenth Five-year Plan’ (p. 7) period, China has promulgated over 70 laws and regulations relating to food safety. The next chapter examines the use of pesticides in China, and argues that users of highly toxic pesticides tended to be less aware and less educated farmers, thus putting a valid case for more diffusion of agricultural knowledge towards better quality production. It also points to the difference in selling patterns among Chinese farmers depending on market access. However, the volume is silent on popular vegetable patterns in China, use and kind of pesticides in practice, and nature of food processing. The next two chapters examine the adoption of food safety standards for ‘quality vegetables’ (pollution-free, green and organic) among agricultural cooperatives in China. It finds that this was more likely among larger cooperatives and those which had registered brands. The fourth chapter makes a case study of the vegetable processing industry in Zhejiang province. The author notes that with trained staff and efficient internal management system, larger firms are well equipped to maintain food ...

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