China has a crisis on its hands. With less than a year to the final run up to the Beijing Games next summer, Chinese pet food has killed American pets; Chinese toothpaste has been found to contain thinners that are poisonous; Chinese catfish are prohibited by Alabama and Mississippi because of high levels of antibiotics; a company in California has recalled “monkfish” from China because it is probably really puffer fish containing the toxin chemical tetrodotoxin.
On Tuesday, June 12, 2007, China’s number two envoy in Washington DC went on the assault to explain the rigor China uses to police and ensure the safety of all products including food.
Chinese Embassy Minister and Deputy Chief of Mission Zheng Zeguang said “certain isolated cases” should not be “blown out of proportion” to mislead the American public into thinking that all food and drugs from China are unsafe. He reiterated that all products coming from China were safe.
Meanwhile, the Chinese charm offensive continued in Beijing.
Vice Minister for the State Administration for Industry and Commerce Li Dongsheng took more than 100 reporters from the international media on a tour of a government facility that houses seized fake products. Fake, tainted or adulterated products from soy sauce to chewing gum were on display.
Mr. Li said, “Yes, there are now some problems of food safety of Chinese products. However, they are not serious. We should not exaggerate those problems.”
Mr. Li said “very good, very complete methods” are used by China to regulate product safety.
“We are very concerned about food safety in China and very concerned about protecting the rights of consumers,” Mr. Li said. “But we do not want to cause panic among the people.”
Well let’s just make two points.
First, these guys, especially Mr. Li, might lose their jobs if not their freedom or their lives if they cannot turn around the impression in the international community that companies in China adulterated products to make money; that these adulterated products, in some cases, were toxic; and that China’s “very good, very complete methods” to get these products out of the “food chain” just didn’t cut the [adulterated] mustard.
And, Second, and more importantly, China has a history, tradition and culture of cheating the other guy.
We call this the “culture of corruption.”
The communist government in China knows this is the case so they do not allow a free press to operate and every single case of tragic wrong-doing results in a flurry of face-saving shows, demonstrations and explanations of how well we do our busines in China.
China’s government acts like a fourth grader caught in the act of smoking a cigarette and then says, “What cigarette?”
A case in point: in 2003, China faced an epidemic of a disease called Severe Acute Reparatory Syndrome (SARS).
Three things happened when China realized it had an epidemic on its hands. In Phase One, China covered up the problem and denied it existed. Phase Two was a flurry of activity to impress the international community that China was on top of the situation. Most of this was for show and didn’t contribute a thing toward ending the epidemic. Finally, China launched Phase Three: a show and charm offensive to convince the world that it did a great job solving the problem.