5 Trends Towards A Sustainable Chinese Food System

Chinese cuisine has enjoyed a prestigious reputation and impresses all across the world with its variety of flavors.  Being from China, I would like to share my heritage of Chinese cuisine and explore how an industry is changing towards sustainable actions.

Heritage of Chinese Cuisine

Chinese cuisine consists out eight culinary regions, including Anhui, Cantonese, Fujian, Hunan, Jiangsu, Shandong, Szechuan and Zhejiang. Amongst these eight, the top five recommended dishes are Yue, Chuan, Xiang, Su and Zhe.

I lived in Guangdong, the origin of Cantonese food, for about seven years. Both Guangdong and Hong Kong are coastal cities and well known for fresh seafood.  In order to showcase the original and delicate seafood flavor, the dishes are subtle and tend have a natural sweetness.

A standard setting for Cantonese breakfast.

According to the map above, areas marked in red and purple is deemed as the “City of Spice”.  Chuan and Xiang dishes, originated from Sichuan and Hunan Province, are the most widely served cuisine in China. The dishes are famous for their hot-spicy flavor of Sichuan pepper, which is rare in other regional cuisines.

Su and Zhe dishes from Huaiyang, indicated in light green on the map, tend  to have a sweet flavor. “Xihu sweet and sour fish” has been considered as the most representative dish of the region.

Xihu Sweet and Sour Fish

Though it has not been marked in the map, Mongolia cuisine of roasted lamb and milk tea is a famous combination. Being different with other cuisines, people use their hands to enjoy their food.


Besides what is mentioned above, Chinese street food is an explosion of different flavors, ranging from sweet, sour, spicy and bitter.  Why is this style defined as Street Food?  Just as the names says: the food is served in street rather than in restaurant, nowadays, they are becoming more and more popular to Chinese young generation.


The cultural richness of the Chinese Cuisines is impacted by the challenges that the food security system is facing in an evolving social, environmental and economic domain. There is a decrease in cultivatable land, shortage of water resources and an uncertainty of where the responsibility of farming lies.   There has been an increase in the production costs of grains, however the income is still remaining low.   Due to regional segmentation, the wholesale market is fragmented, making it difficult to ensure effective planning and distribution.

Trends towards a sustainable industry

The release of the 2016 Number One Document of the Chinese Central Government focuses on addressing major food and agricultural issues in China.  The following trends and actions can be identified:

  1. China is placing a big focus on agricultural modernization to drive efficient and environmentally-friendly processes.
  2. China aims to increase wages in the agricultural industry, by using technological innovation to grow the overall income. Farmers will furthermore benefit from subsidized access to medical insurance.
  3. The government will offer subsidies to infrastructure projects in key rural areas, that can lead to a promotion of not only agriculture but also tourism.
  4. It is estimated that an average of 53 million hectares of high-quality farmland will be created by 2020. This will lead to an increase in productivity and stabilization of yields.
  5. Due to the concern over food safety, the organic food business is experiencing a rapid growth. The increased demand for organic produce may have a positive influence on food safety practices.   China will prioritize new national food safety standards and aims to reach international standards on pesticide residues and veterinary drugs by 2020.

It is key to have a holistic approach to the entire food security system, stretching from production, distribution and consumption, in order to safe keep the beauty of Chinese cuisine.

Written by,

Shu Song



“Special issue on Chinese Food, Agriculture and Rural Economics.” By H. Holly Wang, Michael Delgado and Shaosheng Jin.

“Vision of Resource, Structure, System and Chinese Food Security.” By Kunzhou Zhai.

“Institutional Forces Affecting Corporate Social Responsibility Behavior of the Chinese Food Industry.” By Wei Zuo, Mark S. Schwartz and Yuju Wu.


Leave a Comment