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This chapter explores the commodity chain in edible birds’ nests between Sarawak and China. The nests are a highly sought and prized culinary product believed to have health and therapeutic benefits. The framework of the commodity chain is analysed through relationships and networks that have historical roots, and are embedded in economic, social and cultural contexts. Birds’ nests are collected in Sarawak, and traded and consumed in China, including Hong Kong, and wherever the Chinese diaspora resides. These economic transactions have social underpinnings in addition to the birds’ nests cultural value and status for ethnic Chinese. Due to the high monetary stakes involved in trading, political implications involving governments have come to the fore, which have both positive and negative impacts on the commodity chain.
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A reference to Niah caves in Sarawak.
Towkay means shopkeeper or trader in Hokkien. It is also a term of endearment or respect for such people.
For reasons of personal safety, we were advised not to pursue our research with traders and owners of swiftlet buildings in Bintulu, some of whom were said to be members of gangs or secret societies who might not take kindly to our queries. Kuching was regarded as a safer location to conduct our research.
The concept of guanxi refers to the interpersonal dynamic between two parties, particularly in a business arrangement, where the exchange of personal favours and the maintenance of a relationship are highly valued.
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Wong, Jack (2011) Ban on imports badly affecting demand for white birds’ nest in China. The Star, 30 December.
Xinhua. 2010. Excessive toxic chemical found in imported edible birds’ nests in east China. 15 August.
- The Birds’ Nest Commodity Chain Between Sarawak and China
- Springer Singapore
- Chapter 18