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"Trust, But Verify" Applies to China

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President Ronald Reagan, when asked if he trusted his main communist adversary, the Soviet Union, coined the phrase “Trust, But Verify.”

That may be, in fact we think must be, the way all of the west should view today’s China.  A long series of product safety scandals rocked both China the producer and all other nations, since last December.  The lesson for the west certainly is, “Trust, But Verify.”

Last weekend, China’s director of product safety, the Most Honorable Li Changjiang said on China’s state TV network, “More than 99 percent of our goods meet standards.  Demonizing Chinese products, or talking of the Chinese product threat, I think is simply a new kind of trade protectionism.”

He went on to say, this last nine months of scandal and bad news about China’s products  was all “politically motivated, unfair, biased and poisoned by jealousy.”

Maybe so Most Honorable Li Changjiang, but since your TV appearance:

- The government of New Zealand began to investigate clothing imports from China after some were found to contain dangerously high levels of the chemical formaldehyde. Concentrations up to 900 times the normal safe level of formaldehyde were found in woolen and cotton clothes from China.  A Physician told us, on the condition of anonymity, “This level of formaldehyde is toxic, even cancer causing.”

- A Beijing factory was found to have recycled used chopsticks and sold up to 100,000 pairs a day without any form of disinfection.  This is so blatantly wrong and dangerous that no further comment is necessary.

-The U.S. corporation that imports SpongBob SquarePants journals made in China announced that the products contain toxic lead paint.  The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission ordered a recall.

And just to remind you, Most Honorable Li Changjiang, on August 5, 2007, your deputy head of the State Food and Drug Administration, Hui Lusheng, said, “At present, the food safety situation has improved, yet is still serious.”

“Since last year reports of ‘red-yolk duck eggs’ and so on have often caused wide concern in society about food safety, and warned us that our country is in a period of high risk,” Hui said, referring to a contaminated egg scare.

“Dealing with and preventing food safety risks is a long-term, arduous and complicated project, which needs society to work together and comprehensive prevention,” she added.

Toys, toothpaste, cough syrup, seafood, eggs, pet food and a host of other products made in China have been found to be unsafe, poisonous or toxic since last December.

And China has been less than 100% truthful.  The truth is, China rarely if ever speaks the truth.  And now the world knows.

But many in the world knew before or should have known before.  And companies such as America’s Mattel Toy company did not do due dilligence by properly verifying Chinese claims and thoroughly inspecting products made in China.  One Mattel executive, who asked us not to use his name, told us, “We lost control of the manufacturing process.”

Mattel forgot to inspect and verify.

Pssst.  American companies: you cannot trust China.  You have to verify.

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John E. Carey is the former president of International Defense Consultants, Inc.
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