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The Differences in Diet Between Chinese and Western People Essay

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Updated: Jul 8th, 2021


Chinese and Western societies are very different from many points of view. One of the most important of them is preferences in diet and nutrition. Chinese and Western cuisines are based on different ingredients; people’s food-related habits vary too. This essay is designed to outline these differences and analyze them from the perspective of the economy. There is a connection between what people have to eat regarding their personal needs and financial opportunities.

When the demand for food and products is under discussion, the evaluation of various economic factors has to be developed. In this case, the economic impact on the food industry and diets between China and the West will be evaluated from three major perspectives. The paper presents the major aspects of Chinese and Western diets and reflects on them, discussing individuals’ needs and wants, the question of opportunity costs, and supply-demand concept.

Each economic concept has its peculiar effect on traditions and preferences of the population. The paper concludes that economic issues like demand, supply, population needs, and costs are one of the primary causes of significant differences in food between Chinese and Western people.

Differences in Diet

Food is a vital element of human civilization and society. Diet habits may be very different among communities, states, and countries. In Chinese and Western cultures, variations in food are distinct and caused by many factors, including the economic ones. Although China takes all possible steps to avoid trade competitions with Western countries, it is wrong to neglect the fact that economic differences and opportunities determine the development of the chosen regions. Despite numerous attempts to deal with poverty and gain recognition at the international market, the Chinese government continues fighting against poverty.

According to Scott and Sam (2016), Chinese people are still defined as the poorer population compared to the average stated in the United States. The average Chinese person has only a third part of the spending power of an American (Scott & Sam, 2016). This paper will concentrate on the economic aspect of differences, it is also necessary to mention that the populations of China and Western society have distinct concepts and contents of food culture (Zili, 2017). These are noticeable from their etiquette, the taste and nutritious value of dishes, and the diversity of meals.

The primary economic reason for variations in the Chinese and Western approaches to food is that Western society tends to be more focused on the animal industry while in China, the planting industry prevails. China is famous for rice and wheat, which are one of the main components of its traditional cuisine. It is necessary to mention, however, that China slowly adopts the Western diet due to the rapid growth of industrialization (Weller, 2017; Zhang et al., 2015).

This fact, however, does not affect Chinese focus on local foods and agriculture as opposed to the imported goods. At the same time, in Western society, meat is one of the main components of the diet, which can be explained by the fact that its production is cheap and the industry is well-developed.

Eating habits of Chinese people and the representatives of the Western culture undergo numerous investigations in different parts of the world. For example, a cross-cultural comparison of Chinese and Western societies developed by Chiva (as cited in Banna, Gilliland, Keefe, & Zheng, 2016) shows that traditional Chinese meal organization is characterized by a number of strict rules and rituals, but the effect of globalization and westernization cannot be ignored. Economic circumstances define the situations when people can choose what to eat depending on available supply and current demand.

In addition, it is noticed by Popkin (as cited in Banna et al., 2016) that despite the intention to promote plant-based diets, some Chinese people support the idea to replace plant food with the products that are high in carbohydrates, added sugar, and fats. These recent changes may contradict the already established traditions and rules, but China is a progressive type of society and its people are prepared for innovations, improvements, and new perspectives.

The connection that exists among food, culture, and economy cannot be ignored or underestimated. In addition, it is necessary to admit that plant-based food in China is characterized by multiple health benefits and the fact that Chinese people prefer a healthier style of life compared to the Western population (Zhang et al., 2015). However, economic advantages and the role of industrialization and globalization remain the crucial aspects in the establishment of dietary preferences between China and the West. These issues will be discussed below along with other economic aspects that cause differences.

Needs and Wants

It is necessary to mention that people from Chinese and Western societies have different needs regarding their diet. For example, the study by Banna et al. (2016) shows that in China, individuals organize their menu in a way that it helps them to stay healthy and reduce illnesses. They try to avoid excessive eating and pay attention to portion sizes. In Western society, America in particular, food is seen as a way to remain fit and maintain weight; individuals note that diet should be beneficial for the body and rich in nutrients (Banna et al., 2016).

Another significant difference is the food itself; for example, in Chinese cuisine, one can see that seafood and vegetables prevail over meat as the population prefers these types of ingredients. The peculiar feature of China is that despite the evident connection between the economy and the food industry, the government does not impose one particular rule of how to eat on people. Chinese society is open to new options and alternatives, and if they want to try something new, they are welcome to do what they find necessary at a particular stage of their lives.

To conclude, these examples may show that people from Western society use diet to remain in good physical shape, while people from China concentrate on their health more. It means that the differences in their diets reflect their needs and life goals. It is necessary to note that Western society may have a more comprehensive diet due to the high availability of various foods and economic advantages of the population. However, no one denies the possibility for Chinese society to eat whenever and whatever they want in case economic circumstances allow this opportunity. As a result, the discussion of opportunity costs, demand, and supply may considerably strengthen this paper.

Opportunity Costs

Opportunity costs are another significant issue that should be discussed in relation to the differences in diet between China and Western society. Opportunity cost is an economic concept that defines the benefit that is missed when an individual or an organization starts choosing between several alternatives. This dependence can be illustrated by the example of the idea that China succeeds in the development of a plant-based industry, while the West is focused on meat production and distribution.

As China is more concentrated on agriculture than America, it is possible to say that the population has a higher opportunity cost of including meat into its diet. This point can be supported by the fact that rice remains the primary ingredient of traditional dishes despite the country’s industrialization. In Western society, the inclusion of seafood into the diet is related to the opportunity cost of transporting it from Asia.

At the same time, America, being a large meat industry, has more animal products in its traditional dishes due to the low opportunity cost of it. It is also necessary to mention that China has a large number of citizens, which means that changes in traditional diet may be challenging from the economic perspective.

Supply Demand

One of the major factors that may cause differences between the diets of Chinese and Western societies is the food supply and demand. According to Huang, Wei, Qi, and Wei (2017), currently, China experiences an increased demand for import caused by the fast growth of the population. The report reveals that the country has a high demand for meat, sugar, and dairy products. At the same time, China shows enhanced production rates for rice, wheat, and grains (Huang et al., 2017).

This example proves that the aspects of Chinese diet may be determined by this economic factor; the country’s traditional dishes lack the products that are in higher demand and mostly consist of those that are common for the area. Moreover, the large number of the population also causes China’s proneness to vegetables and rice as opposed to meat due to their lower price.

As for Western society and the United States, in particular, there is no demand for imported meat, which means that Americans can consume more animal products than the Chinese people do at a lower cost. At the same time, the country has a large import of seafood, which explains why it is not considered a traditional American ingredient. This aspect shows a big difference compared to China where seafood is a significant part of individuals’ diets. It means that supply demand can be an important factor that causes variations in food preferences between countries.


This report showed that the differences in diet between Chinese and Western societies could be determined by various economic factors. First, people from China and Western countries may see food differently; for some, it is the primary way of remaining healthy, while others see it as a way to stay fit. It means that individuals from Western society may be less concerned about the nutritious value of dishes compared to those from China.

Second, opportunity costs are a significant cause of the differences in diet because to sell large amounts of meat, China has to invest in export. At the same time, Western traditional food rarely contains seafood for a similar reason. This point is also related to supply demand; as China is focused on agriculture, there is no fundamental demand for rice and wheat, while there is a lack of animal products. In Western society, the situation is the opposite, which causes significant differences in diet.


Banna, J. C., Gilliland, B., Keefe, M., & Zheng, D. (2016). . BMC Public Health, 16. Web.

Huang, J. K., Wei, W., Qi, C., & Wei, X. (2017). The prospects for China’s food security and imports: Will China starve the world via imports? Journal of Integrative Agriculture, 16(12), 2933-2944.

Scott, M., & Sam, C. (2016). . Web.

Weller, C. (2017). . Web.

Zhang, R., Wang, Z., Fei, Y., Zhou, B., Zheng, S., Wang, L.,… Yu, Y. (2015). The difference in nutrient intakes between Chinese and Mediterranean, Japanese and American diets. Nutrients, 7(6), 4661-4688.

Zili, X. (2017). The Differences of Chinese and Western food cultures. Chinese Language, Literature & Culture, 2(1), 6-9.

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IvyPanda. (2021) 'The Differences in Diet Between Chinese and Western People'. 8 July.

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