Over the past decade, the market for high-quality rice among middle-class consumers in China has grown dramatically. While the Chinese state's direct involvement in the market of rice is more limited than it was in the past, its presence is apparent in indirect ways. As the state embraces the global economy, it also promotes the consumption of high-quality products in an attempt to shed its image as the world's producer of cheap goods. Moreover, the discourse of suzhi (quality people) in Chinese society emphasizes the importance of quality population. The “technologies of quality” employed by the state to promote quality indicate that the modern Chinese state is guiding and directing science and society through the ideal that quality products and quality people are key to modernizing China. However, at the same time the state promotes the discourse of quality, it is also making real, material efforts to improve the quality of goods and products China produces. As this article demonstrates, this process is evident in the rise of high-quality rice from the northeast of China. Recognizing that much of the rice China has grown over the past few decades has been poor quality (but high yielding), the state has enabled the growth of the market for rice from the northeast. In this article, I argue that the market for high-quality rice grown in the northeast of China has been driven, in part, by the Chinese state's efforts to increase quality agricultural products and to promote “quality” as part of its attempt to modernize Chinese society.
Research Article|December 01 2011