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The Social Context of the Chinese Food System: An Ethnographic Study of the Beijing Seafood Market

by Michael Fabinyi 1,2,* and Neng Liu 3
Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies, James Cook University, Townsville City QLD 4811, Australia
WorldFish, Jalan Batu Maung, Batu Maung, 11960 Bayan Lepas, Malaysia
Department of Sociology, Peking University, 5 Yiheyuan Road, 100871 Beijing, China
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Academic Editors: Iain Gordon and Marc A. Rosen
Sustainability 2016, 8(3), 244;
Received: 12 January 2016 / Revised: 10 February 2016 / Accepted: 1 March 2016 / Published: 5 March 2016
(This article belongs to the Section Sustainable Agriculture, Food and Wildlife)
China’s role in the global food system has expanded immensely in recent years. In the seafood sector, it is now the largest consumer of seafood products in the world, making the Chinese market highly significant for global fisheries. Drawing on ethnographic- and interview-based research in the largest seafood market in Beijing, this paper analyzes the social context of Chinese consumption and trade. We broadly conceive of this social context as encompassing a range of social norms and practices that include culturally and historically generated consumer preferences, and distinctive forms of governance and business practice. We find that the social context of China is a key driver of patterns of consumption and trade, and provides challenges and opportunities to improve governance for environmental sustainability. We highlight the need for greater policy and academic attention to these characteristics of seafood consumption and trade within China. View Full-Text
Keywords: Asia; China; seafood; consumption; food system; ethnography Asia; China; seafood; consumption; food system; ethnography
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Fabinyi, M.; Liu, N. The Social Context of the Chinese Food System: An Ethnographic Study of the Beijing Seafood Market. Sustainability 2016, 8, 244.

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