Date of Award

Spring 1-1-2011

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Timothy Oakes

Second Advisor

Darna Dufour

Third Advisor

Emily Yeh


China, the world's largest populated country, is the world's largest producer and consumer of rice. Since the early 2000s, there has been a subtle shift in China's rice breeding priorities to developing better tasting, high quality rice. This shift is generally attributed to the increased economic development and a rise in living standards; people went from eating to be full (chidebao) to eating well (chidehao). Agricultural research began to focus on the overall quality of rice, citing both the need to be competitive on the international rice market and domestic demand for higher quality rice. This dissertation explores changing rice production and consumption habits in China as the Chinese state embraces the global capitalist economy. Specifically, I explore the ways that northeast rice--known throughout China as `high quality' rice--has become a commodity on the Chinese market. Within this context, the state is promoting the consumption of high quality products in an attempt to shed its image as the world's producer of cheap goods. This dissertation places rice in the midst of China's socio-economic changes. Rice is an important staple to the Chinese diet and is heavily regulated by the state, but, in recent years, it has experienced changes that reflect the state's attempts at deregulation. At the same time, consumers, executing their buying power by purchasing and consuming new varieties of rice, drive the market for high quality rice. Whether it comes in the form of people, goods, or agricultural products, the Chinese state promotes `quality' as an ideal that all citizens are expected to achieve for China to become a modern, civilized society. Indeed, the discourse of suzhi (quality) is evident in Chinese urban middle class society as people invest in education and other forms of consumption to enhance their individual quality. The state expects that these middle class citizens will govern themselves to form the harmonious society that Chinese leaders desire. In doing so, a new category of consumer citizens emerges in Chinese society. Chinese citizen-subjects are not just producers, but are also being active and discerning consumers as well.

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Geography Commons