Centralized Agricultural Networks and Changing Agrarian Power Dynamics in the Platform Economy
The ascendency of e-commerce has transformed agricultural supply chains in rural China. It has been accompanied by the reshuffling of power dynamics among local agricultural stakeholders. This study interrogates the social impact of agricultural e-commerce as an institution on agrarian power dynamics. I drew on a case in which e-commerce became constitutive in the local agriculture sector. I observed centralized networks of agricultural production that differ from traditional practices. I developed a conceptual tool to analyze power dynamics. In centralized agricultural networks, information elites occupy the central nodes and bridge between online markets and offline production. The incipient form of differentiation emerged among small independent farmers and grew to substantial differentiation between information elites and those who were peripheral in the network. The formation of these centralized agricultural networks originated in the digital platform economy. Those who can take better advantage of digital platform rules and cater to platform needs are more likely to succeed. The networked digital economy sprawls to rural agricultural communities with the sweeping force of platform expansion and grassroots energy.