As China’s urban population edges toward one billion people, demand for pork, noodles, bread, and other foods is growing. The resulting supply chains stretch from Chinese dinner tables to Brazil’s soybean plantations, Australia’s grain fields, and Cuba’s sugar mills. These three nations reflect comparable histories of food production: from First Nation horticulture to colonial agriculture and postcolonial agribusiness. Drawing on ethnographic research conducted between 2001-22 in Beijing, Rio de Janeiro, Melbourne, and Havana, this presentation explores the links between Chinese demand for commodities and local food systems. I argue that although food traditions in these cities differ, community intermediaries strategically articulate them in similar ways to secure public and private support for their projects. As global agribusiness challenges the sovereignty of food systems in new ways, intermediaries are becoming critical for balancing the interests of rural-urban migrants, municipal authorities, and consumers.
Adrian H. Hearn (University of Melbourne) studies international relations from the ground up. Of English and Brazilian background, he has lived in the United States, Australia, Cuba, and China. Adrian has delivered courses and seminars on China-Latin America agricultural and economic relations at universities including Renmin, Tongji, Berkeley, Yale, Princeton, and Columbia. His policy papers have been published by the European Commission, Chatham House, and the Inter-American Dialogue, and his books include Diaspora and Trust: Cuba, Mexico and the Rise of China (Duke University Press 2016), Cuba: Religion Social Capital, and Development (Duke University Press 2008), The Changing Currents of Transpacific Integration (Lynne Rienner 2016), and China Engages Latin America (Lynne Rienner 2011). Alongside his academic work, Adrian’s community arts project Suns of Mercury produces multicultural music, films, and performances.
- Center for Migration and Development
- Program in Asian American Studies