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Reviewed by:
  • China's Domestic Grain and Marketing Reform and Integration
  • Jan P. Voon
China's Domestic Grain and Marketing Reform and Integration.Edited by Chunlai Chen and Christopher Findlay. Australia: Asia Pacific Press, 2004. Pp. 279.

This topic is of paramount importance. Food security or grain shortages have been a frequent problem in China over the past five decades. The problem is aggravated by China's huge and growing population and its dependence on ineffective and counterproductive policies such as production subsidies and forced supply quotas. Since the open-door policy, attempts have been made by the central and regional governments to introduce policies that provide production incentives to producers and minimize the barriers to trade.

The book analyses this process of change or reform and identifies policy measures that would liberalize China's grain market. These are important challenges for China given that many characteristics of a centrally planned economy remain and government intervention is still common. Hence, any advance made in the direction of reducing food security problem in China is a critical issue.

Overall, the book has been well written. It presents a balanced view or argument on the topic. First, the book is compiled not just by academics in the field but also government officials in China as well as advisers to the policy-making process in China. It presents the views of different groups in the debate on grain production and marketing policies in China. Second, it covers different areas of investigations, including the review on the development of the domestic grain marketing system, successes and failures of recent experiments, assessments of farmers' responses to the twists and turns in various reform measures, promotion or streamlining of inter-regional trade and regional comparative advantages and the extent and implications of grain market integration in China. Third, several simulations and empirical studies have been presented across provinces and across various grains and agricultural products.

Though the book as a whole is well presented, the overall conclusions appear to be too general. For example, it concludes that China's grain marketing system has undergone significant liberalization and marketization over the last twenty years but fails to elaborate on how the market structure has changed and how private enterprises could play an active role in the grain business which could contribute to increased competition and efficiency in grain production and marketing. The book also falls short on elaborating the pros and cons of the various policy measures and giving specific details on policy recommendations. Future directions in research on this area has also not been suggested. While the econometric methods used are plausible, the data used were obsolete and not updated, and consequently, future forecasts or simulations could not be credibly provided. Despite this shortcoming, the book constitutes an important addition to the literature and provides an important channel for debate on this critical issue.

Jan P. Voon
Lingnan University, Hong Kong


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p. 285
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