Constructing the accountability of food safety as a public problem in China: a document analysis of Chinese scholarship, 2008-2018

Ronghui Yang*, Klasien Horstman, Bart Penders

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

2 Citations (Web of Science)


Incessant food safety scandals in China have given rise to a loss of public trust in food safety, stimulating a series of studies focussing on food safety governance, accountability, and trust restoration. Against this backdrop, Chinese scholars are keen to reflect on different strategies for ensuring food safety public accountability and credibility, presenting different perspectives on issues like responsibility, trust, risk communication, and transparency. In this paper, we aim to get more in-depth insight into how Chinese scholarly debates co-construct public accountability for food safety as a public issue. We selected 51 articles from 10,790 candidates drawn from four Chinese academic databases for content analysis. Drawing from political theories on public accountability as well as science and technology studies, the analysis shows that arguments for a specific public accountability model (more or less centralised, more or less stakeholder participation) are intertwined with the specific role of scientific expertise (more or less authoritative, more or less democratising). As such, the analysis shows how scholarly debates on public accountability for food safety in China co-construct a public forum for discussing supervision and accountability, risk assessment, and transparency.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)236-265
Number of pages30
JournalJournal of Chinese governance
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 3 Apr 2022


  • RISK
  • Supervision system
  • accountability structure
  • infrastructures of trust
  • risk assessment
  • risk communication
  • Risk communication
  • Infrastructures of trust
  • Risk assessment
  • Accountability structure

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