Understanding China's wildlife markets: Trade and tradition in an age of pandemic

Annah Zhu*, George Zhu

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

5 Citations (Scopus)


Environmentalists have long been concerned about the rate at which China is consuming and trading in threatened and endangered wildlife. The recent COVID-19 global pandemic has made wildlife consumption an issue that concerns everyone around the world. Formerly obscure practices like wet markets and commodities like pangolin scales or bear bile have gained international notoriety. Along with that attention has come increasing politicization and ideological polarization. Beyond the global fight against the pandemic, there has been another global struggle over the meaning and origin of the disease, as evidenced by the spread of terms like “Wuhan Flu” and “bat soup.” What has become obscured by the news cycle struggling to keep up with the rapid spread of the virus and the political sound and fury surrounding it is any meaningful understanding of China's wildlife consumption and trade. Deeply ingrained in Chinese culture and history, the wildlife trade is not going away anytime soon. Despite a national ban, already wet markets are returning across China. Addressing the wildlife trade in China, we argue, requires first understanding it.

Original languageEnglish
Article number105108
JournalWorld Development
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2020


  • Asia
  • China
  • COVID-19
  • Endangered species
  • Globalization
  • Wildlife trade


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