Author: Xu, Siyuan
Title: The political economy of seeds : paradigmatic shifts of seed governance and seed marketization in China
Advisors: Yan, Hairong (APSS)
Degree: Ph.D.
Year: 2019
Subject: Hong Kong Polytechnic University -- Dissertations
Seed industry and trade -- China
Seeds -- Law and legislation -- China
Agriculture -- Economic aspects -- China
Department: Department of Applied Social Sciences
Pages: x, 149 pages : color illustrations
Language: English
Abstract: Seed is the most important means of production for agricultural producers, and also one of the defining elements of agricultural production. Drawing on the theoretical frameworks of Marxist political economy and Marxist political ecology, the research focuses on three themes: seed commodification, the role of seed in agrarian change, and seed governance. First, the research explores the transition of the seed provision system and the development of seed marketization. It reviews China's collective seed provision system in the Mao era (1950s-1970s) that combined grassroots self-reliance with state's support and subsidies. When the neoliberal project was globally launched in the 1970s, seed marketization was also initiated with the unfolding of China's Reform and Opening up (1978). Since then, China's seed marketization went through three stages: the monopoly of state-owned seed companies, free competition, and industry concentration and centralization. This research depicts and interprets the developmental stages and features of the commodification of seed in China. Second, seed is crucial in shaping the agricultural modes of production. This research uses the case of introducing hybrid maize seed to Northeast China to explain how seed helped establish and maintain capitalist agriculture. In another case, this research explores how seed enables agricultural upstream agents to undertake agricultural production and accumulate capital along the agricultural industry chain. Contrary to the belief in technology neutrality, these two cases show the significance of technology in the formation of capitalist agriculture, class differentiation and the increasing profit concentration in the agricultural industry chain.
Third, this research concentrates on the paradigmatic changes of seed governance in China that is characterized by a dramatic transition since the end of the Mao era and the enactment of China's first seed law in 2000. In the Mao era when seed was not a commodity, seed governance was not necessary in the collective seed provision system. However, since seed marketization began in China, seed governance was to facilitate the liberalization of China's domestic seed market. Between 2000 and 2010, China's seed market had seen the participation of foreign seed companies, the withdrawal of research institution-associated seed enterprises, and the increase in domestic private seed enterprises. The overproduction crisis in China's domestic seed market that continued from 2010 contributed to a new seed governance regime that encouraged concentration and centralization in China's domestic seed industry. By focusing on the three themes, this research explains the unfolding of the neoliberalization project in China's context and examines China's agrarian change by looking into the role of seed. The research finds that the neoliberalization and agricultural capitalization in China dramatically transformed the provision system of means of production and agricultural mode of production, which both point to the concentration of profit and power in the big players. The state plays a crucial role in the creation of agricultural capitalists and large domestic seed companies that can participate in the global seed market.
Rights: All rights reserved
Access: open access

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