Society for the Anthropology of Food and Nutrition
Oral Presentation Session
In the past few years, the cultural dynamics and politics underlying immigration, US-China relations, and Chinese cuisine in Ohio have changed dramatically. Owners and employees of Chinese restaurants, many of them recent immigrants, operate their businesses in a state where President Trump’s message of “American First” resonated powerfully with voters in the 2016 election. Fears of Chinese economic power cross party lines and have a longer history than just the Trump campaign. Ohio Senators Rob Portman (Republican) and Sherrod Brown (Democratic) have for the last several years railed against the PRC as a threat to the American economy, with Brown claiming that trade with China “has meant shuttered factories, lost jobs, and devastated communities across America.” Conversely, economists and farmers from the Buckeye State worry President Trump’s trade war with Beijing will make the state’s pork and soybean producers, whose exports to China account for millions of dollars annually, the first casualties.Within a context of deepening trade and relations with the PRC, I argue that authentic Chinese food has come to have a dual meaning for Ohioans: signifying both the embrace of deepening trade and relations with the PRC, immigration, and multiculturalism, but also fears about China’s rising global dominance, its economic might, and the place of immigrants in the US.