“Meat-eaters are shallow; they cannot think ahead,” chides a passage from the Zuo Zhuan. The fourth century BCE text used “meat-eater” as metaphor for the wealthy and powerful, but one cannot help but think of the ancient saying as a warning for today.
Though most Chinese rarely ate meat except at festivals just 40 years ago, China is now the biggest meat consumer in the world. Our cover story looks at the health, political, and environmental consequences of this dietary shift, and the solutions that have emerged—such as a recent government crackdown on wild game in light of the Covid-19 pandemic, and urbanites’ new appetite for plant-based artificial meat. Meanwhile, age-old culinary traditions and memories of starvation still make it difficult to change consumers’ carnivorous tastes.
Another side effect of economic development is noise pollution; from round-the-clock renovations to inconsiderate neighbors, we hear about China’s biggest noise problems. We join the prestigious (and pricy) pu’er tea harvest in Yunnan province, dive under the sea to discover Silk Road shipwrecks with maritime archeologists, and dine under the stars in Taiwan’s famous midnight eateries. All this, and more, inside.
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