The Social Construction of Markets in a Transitional Economy: The Example of the Sugar Industry in China
The entry of China into the WTO, in 2001, has generated a lot of research related to the marketization of China’s economy. This debate has overlooked a more important one, which is to analyse the shape taken by the organization of China’s economy, in relation to the reforms introduced by this country since the end of the 1970s and its integration into the world economy. In other words, the changes that are currently occurring, provide a unique chance to understand the role and the interaction of different agents in the (re)construction of a market. For this purpose, a specific industry has been selected. The choice of the sugar industry allows us to understand its organization from the basic producer (the farmer) up to the final consumer (the food industry). It also allows us to take into account the changes that are currently underway in the international market of sugar (due to changes in the sugar regime of the European Union, an increasing production in Brazil, etc.), which exert considerable pressure on an industry that is undergoing complete restructuring in China. Taking into account these changes, the paper makes use of the commodity value chain approach as well as of the sociology of organization. Based on a fieldwork conducted from 2004 to 2006, it shows that, while China’s central government seems committed to further liberalize its economy, the diverging interests of agents involved in the industry (farmers, mills, local and provincial authorities…) have in effect reinforced the role of the various levels of government agencies – despite the partial privatisation. It also shows that all the measures taken to protect the most vulnerable agents have led to increased instabilities and uncertainties in a market which, nonetheless, has been continuously expanding for the last 25 years.
|Date of creation:||2007|
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