Revisiting China’s Supermarket Revolution: Complementarity and Co-evolution Between Traditional and Modern Food Outlets

World Development

Yuan Yuan, Zhenzhong Si, Taiyang Zhong, Xianjin Huang, Jonathan Crush

Like many emerging economies in the Global South, China is experiencing major transformations of its national and local food system characterized by the rise of supermarkets. There has been an ongoing debate on the relationship between supermarkets and wet markets in developing countries. Drawing on data from a city-wide supermarket mapping and surveys conducted in Nanjing in 2019, this paper revisits China’s “supermarket revolution” process and challenges the prediction of supermarket domination. It reveals that Nanjing’s food retailing system has been shaped by the complementarity and co-evolution of the wet market and the supermarket sectors with considerable policy support. The paper, therefore, contributes to the broader debates on the existing “supermarket revolution” theory by providing baseline evidence and new perspectives for understanding the food environment in urban China. Policymakers and researchers need to recognize the possibility of the co-evolution of supermarkets and wet markets in other cities of the Global South. Investing in urban food system planning could enhance the adaptability of the food system to improve food security.


Featured City: Nanjing, China

Featured Country: China

Scroll to Top