I'm moving to China. Here's why... / by Daphne Cheng

On October 13th, I am moving to China. Yes, it was a very spontaneous decision made just a few weeks ago. Last winter, I proclaimed to the air it would be my last winter in NYC. I didn’t have any particular plan at the time- no destination in mind, no concrete plan in place- I just knew it would be the last. Those closest to me know that New York was always just a temporary sojourn until I felt the time was right to leave.

That time is now. So why China? 

I feel I am being called to China. There are 1.4 billion Chinese, and as more join the middle and upper class, meat consumption- historically regarded as a luxury because it was expensive and a rare treat- is on the rise and is seen as a status symbol. The Chinese already consume 28% of the world’s meat at half the consumption rate of that of Americans, so if the Chinese continue to increase consumption to match Americans, it will literally be unsustainable, there won’t be enough supply even if you wanted it. The Chinese government has released new dietary guidelines to cut meat consumption in half by 2030, but so far no real action has taken place to encourage people to follow them. Why should you care? Meat production is the #1 contributor to greenhouse gases, and the increases would add 223 tons to the environment. Climate change is real and it's scary and something needs to be done.

I’m hoping to stop and reverse the trend before it goes too far.

So what’s the plan? How the hell does a 27 year old girl from America- who had only ever visited China once before- think she can change a country with such deep-seated culinary tradition in meat? And how do you send a message to a population of 1.4 billion people? The answer: of course, digitally. I will reveal more as it unravels, but we have an ambitious, multi-layered, multi-year plan, and it’s going to make waves. The heart of our efforts is positioning a plant-based lifestyle as cool and even luxurious; we’ll fight the meat as a status symbol line of thought. As my friends in wellness know, true luxury is being healthy enough to enjoy everything life has to offer.

I originally went to China for a 3 week tour of hosting dinners and workshops. Dozens of meetings later, it became 7 weeks. It started when Hazel Zhang, a former intern at my Tribeca supperclub Suite ThreeOhSix, wrote an article about me on her blog turned media company (only 2 years old and now has over 200,000 followers). That article went viral and was reposted by dozens of other outlets, garnering over 1.4 million views across them all. I was amazed by the reception and enthusiasm surrounding what I do. When I arrived in China, I was shocked when people asked me for my autograph and I was flooded with requests from prospective partners and investors. Everything was so surreal after struggling to raise money for my ventures for years in New York to no avail. To my surprise, I discovered that the plant-based market is still very nascent and that the food system in China is utterly broken. But the demand is there and it's growing and we'll make it grow even bigger and faster.

I have never been more excited and never more certain that this is what I’m on this Earth to do, especially after a scare yesterday nearly getting hit by a car while riding my bike. 1% of Americans are vegan, if we simply achieved that same %, that’s 14 million people. But of course we’re aiming higher. And if we get 5 people each to eat 20% less, that's great too. The potential impact is mind boggling and this can’t be ignored.

New York, I love you, but you don’t need me anymore. The veg scene is well on it’s way to becoming respected here. It’s incredible to have witnessed and played my part in growing the movement from when I first became vegetarian 14 years ago- when no one knew what vegan meant and dining options were scant and the few options were terrible. China is in that same position today, but China moves unfathomably fast. They say a New York minute is a Shanghai second, and I’ve seen how true it is. If we do this right, we could propel the movement and get on par with the US in just a few years instead of over a decade. If you want to help or if you know plant-based companies seeking to expand to China, get in touch. We need all hands on deck.

Don’t worry, I’ll be back often enough. To all the incredible, inspiring, beautiful people I am lucky to call my friends, thank you. Thank you for making New York the amazing, vibrant place it is. I will miss you ❤ 

I'm here to start a revolution.

Want to stay updated on what I'm up to in China? I'll be posting regular updates here and by email. Stay in touch xoxo