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Special Feature

Convivial Agriculture: Evolving Food and Farming Activism in South China

Daren Shi-chi Leung
p. 29-38


The Chinese community-supported agriculture (CSA) movement is notable for advocating a revival of peasant farming and food sovereignty. For the emerging food politics in China, the main focus is the promotion of “ethical” food in the context of food scares. Currently this promotion often relies overwhelmingly on an emphasis of ethics of trust through certification of food by intermediaries. Yet, there is controversy among CSA activists, who question whether a certifying practice can improve the relationship between consumer and producer. This paper will present an emerging alternative approach within Chinese CSA circles that focuses on strengthening participatory culture within the consumer-producer nexus. To do so, I will shed new light on the experience of food and farming activism in South China since the late 1990s. The main focus is an empirical study of Chengxianghui (CXH), an organisation that operates various consumer-led action groups in Guangzhou. In order to conceptualise the approach by the activists, this paper outlines a normative framework referred to as “convivial agriculture” that is based on the Guangdong-based practice of the Participatory Guarantee System (PGS). The framework aims to recognise and negotiate responsibilities among different actors caring for the “agricultural commons.”

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Editor's notes

Manuscript submitted on 12 October 2020. Accepted on 4 June 2021.


Full text document will be published online on June 2022.


A recent dispute over “ethical” food within Chinese CSA circles
The context and dominant politics of food scares
CSA: Limitations of the ethical model of “certification by intermediaries”
Agrarian renaissance in South China: CSA, community, and commons
Introducing CXH: Activism within the nexus of production and consumption
Activist reflections on farm certification and the difficulties for the agricultural environment
Narrating PGS as techniques for conviviality
Technique (I) for rendering agricultural commons
Technique (II) for recognising companionship
Telling a “companion-carer” story
Conclusion: Collective challenges for rural-urban reimagination

First lines

A recent dispute over “ethical” food within Chinese CSA circles

It is noteworthy that in times of seemingly omnipresent food scares, a local food movement known as community-supported agriculture (CSA) has emerged in China. The CSA movement combines three core elements. First, it promotes the consumption of healthy, local, and seasonal food. Second, the movement aims to improve the relationship between consumers and producers as well as the one between humans and the environment. Third, it advocates the support for rural communities in their efforts to generate a sustainable form of development (Si et al. 2015). Since the mid-2000s, members and organisations belonging to the movement have conducted numerous activities such as visiting farms that follow CSA guidelines, initiating farmers’ markets and buying clubs, or promoting farmer cooperatives. In sum, the movement consists of rather heterogeneous initiatives in terms of geographic focus, consumer-producer networks, and the promote...

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Bibliographical reference

Daren Shi-chi Leung, « Convivial Agriculture: Evolving Food and Farming Activism in South China », China Perspectives, 2021/2 | 2021, 29-38.

Electronic reference

Daren Shi-chi Leung, « Convivial Agriculture: Evolving Food and Farming Activism in South China », China Perspectives [Online], 2021/2 | 2021, Online since 01 June 2022, connection on 27 October 2021. URL : ; DOI :

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About the author

Daren Shi-chi Leung

Daren Shi-chi Leung recently completed his PhD thesis “Farming as Method: Contextualising the Politics of Food and Farming in South China,” and is as an affiliated researcher at the Department of Gender and Cultural Studies, University of Sydney. A14, The Quadrangle, The University of Sydney, NSW2006, Australia (

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