Changing Rice Bowl: Economic Development and Diet in China

Changing Rice Bowl: Economic Development and Diet in China

Elizabeth J. Leppman
Copyright Date: 2005
Pages: 228
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  • Book Info
    Changing Rice Bowl: Economic Development and Diet in China
    Book Description:

    The book deals with a topic of perennial interest to Chinese and non-Chinese alike: Chinese food. Chinese culture is exceptionally food-oriented, and non-Chinese are curious about what Chinese people in China actually eat, as contrasted with meals in ever-popular Chinese restaurants. Furthermore, foreigners have long received the impression that Chinese people are inadequately fed, but the picture today is considerably more complex. At its best, the Chinese diet is among the world’s healthiest, and access to adequate, nutritious food has made enormous progress in recent years. The content of the Chinese diet and its nutritional adequacy vary over space, not only in the vastness of China but even within one province. All these strands, examined after the end of food rationing opened new choices to Chinese consumers, are portrayed in a text that is easily accessible to the general public and that is supplemented with maps, graphs, and photographs. Beginning with background concepts in nutrition, culture, and economic development, the book proceeds to describe foods that Chinese traditionally eat and the farming system that has produced them for hundreds of years. It then gives an overview of rural-urban contrasts at the national level. A summary geography of Liaoning Province in China’s northeast provides background for the detailed study of the dietary regime in a sample of households at five sites within the province. The book concludes with some suggestions of possible future implications of the findings.

    eISBN: 978-988-220-060-9
    Subjects: Business

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. vii-viii)
    Elizabeth J. Leppman
  4. 1 Diet, Economic Development, and Culture
    (pp. 1-6)

    Everybody eats. Food is necessary for biological survival; all people must somehow obtain it, whether by collecting it, producing it, or purchasing it. It is, therefore, an item in every household budget.

    The initial range of potential foods is a matter of various ecological and environmental constraints (Chang, 1977b: 6). From this range, people, although omnivorous, make choices among many available and potentially nutritious possibilities. K. C. Chang (1977b: 3) says, “For survival needs, all men [sic] everywhere could eat the same food, to be measured only in calories, fats, carbohydrates, proteins, and vitamins ... but no, people of different...

  5. 2 Culture and Food
    (pp. 7-28)

    China is a developing country, in fact, a rapidly developing country and Liaoning Province is in its more developed east coast region. China’s course of economic development has seen many twists and turns, reflecting political shifts and events, but provision of sufficient food and adequate nutrition has remained an important theme throughout. In addition to being a biological necessity, food is also an element of culture and a central focus — perhaps the central focus — of Chinese culture. This chapter reviews the roles of food in human lives and the principles governing what individuals and cultural groups select to...

  6. 3 The Chinese Dietary Regime
    (pp. 29-52)

    In keeping with the rest of Chinese culture, the dietary regime of present-day China is the result of thousands of years of development. Some elements are indigenous, while others have been imported. Food is a pivotal part of any culture, but, for various historical reasons, it is especially central to Chinese culture. China has been characterized as having a food-centered culture; even the greeting equivalent to the English “How are you?” is “Have you eaten?” (Simoons, 1991: 14). The Chinese have developed a system of farming and of cooking that, given adequate supplies, can feed 22% of the world’s population...

  7. 4 Food Production to Food Purchase: Economic Development and Urbanization
    (pp. 53-88)

    Major changes in lifestyle, including the way households provide food for themselves, accompany the multifaceted societal transformation, collectively called economic development. Economic development, by Todaro’s definition, involves economic growth, that is, rising gross national product (GNP), “the capacity of a national economy, whose initial economic condition has been more or less static for a long time, to generate and sustain an annual increase in its gross national product of perhaps 5 to 7% or more (1989: 86; emphasis original). Many examples of economic growth, in which the main beneficiaries have been the elite of the society and little benefit has...

  8. [Illustrations]
    (pp. None)
  9. 5 Liaoning Province
    (pp. 89-114)

    To see more clearly what Chinese people eat on a day-to-day basis, we now focus on one province: Liaoning in Northeastern China. This chapter surveys the geography of Liaoning Province, describes the food and diet situation for the province as a whole, and lays out the application of McGee’s zhenxianghua model. While no one province truly can represent a country as large and diverse as China in all details of food habits, Liaoning possesses characteristics that are repeated elsewhere and are important to understanding China’s issues of food supply, nutrition, and well-being.

    The timing of this study fell just after...

  10. 6 Meals in the Households of Liaoning
    (pp. 115-154)

    As we have seen, on the national and provincial scale, China indeed displays a rural/urban contrast in economic aspects of diet. But what do Chinese people really eat? What is Chinese food like in China? Are Chinese tastes really changing in line with the preferred foods among better-off citizens? For that information, we must look at food and nutrition at a very local scale by asking the people themselves. The sample of individual households from whom this information came represents places of varying economic development and urbanization levels, as Terry McGee (1989, 1991a) described in his model. Thus, these households...

  11. 7 China’s Changing Rice Bowl
    (pp. 155-164)

    China’s last great famine was from 1958 to1961, the result of the failed campaign of the Great Leap Forward. The next major political upheaval, the Cultural Revolution (1966–76) did not produce widespread starvation, although diets were terribly unbalanced and lacked important nutrients. In promoting economic development and unleashing the energies of China’s farmers, the Dengist reforms undoubtedly improved the quantity and variety of food available to the Chinese people.

    After nearly two decades of Deng’s reform, development and modernization programs — both Engel’s and Bennett’s laws — operate in China with two exceptions: first, government intervention in food markets...

  12. Notes
    (pp. 165-166)
  13. References
    (pp. 167-188)
  14. Appendixes

    • Appendix A Nutrients and Their Role in Human Health
      (pp. 189-198)
    • Appendix B Forms Used in Field Study
      (pp. 199-208)
    • Appendix C Glossary of Chinese Characters
      (pp. 209-210)
  15. Index
    (pp. 211-220)