Archive for the ‘lead paint on toys’ Category

Distrustful of China’s Government at Almost Every Turn

July 28, 2007

By John E. Carey
Peace and Freedom
July 29, 2007

Please excuse me if I am distrustful of just about everything said and done by China’s government.

Having lived in China, watched China through my own media mesmerized eyes, and witnessed China’s government actions and reactions through Chinese business associates and friends, I have come to be distrustful of just about everything said and done by China’s government.

It is almost as if the Chinese government has been across the table from me for 30 years as we played poker. You get to know intuitively when the adversary is bluffing, lying, admitting, or avoiding.

In 2003, China faced an epidemic of a disease called Severe Acute Reparatory Syndrome (SARS).

As the story broke that the disease was reaching epidemic proportions in Vietnam and Singapore and other Asian venues, China didn’t make a sound.

I was on the edge of my seat nonetheless. I had a Chinese-born American employee traveling and doing business in China. I was worried for his safety and alerted him that there may be some disease spreading, unbeknownst to us, inside China.

Sure enough, before too many days, news reports began to come out of China that it, too, was experiencing SARS but that the problem was being competently managed.

I knew that had to be a lie. Vietnam and Singapore had noticed the outbreak more than two weeks before and recovery had been tough and troubling.

China then announced that the problem was worse than at first thought and the government launched a huge show of activity to demonstrate how hard they were working to stamp out the disease. Near the end of the crisis (and it was a crisis: hundreds if not thousands died in China) China began to escort news people around hospitals and other facilities to demonstrate the professionalism and medical readiness of China’s system.

It was then that I realized the government of China responded the same way to every crisis.

In Phase One, China covered up the problem and denied it existed. The disease persisted and worsened. 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. During this phase other nations like Vietnam and Singapore, that had admitted the problem as soon as it was discovered, eradicated the disease.

Finally, China launched Phase Three: a show and charm offensive to convince the world that it did a great job solving the problem.

I documented my conclusions in a Washington Times commentary under the headline “China’s Ham-Handed SARS Response: Omen of The Future In Disease Control?”

During the SARS emergency, the international media found out, for the first time, that China lacked sufficient medications, medical staff and hospital facilities to properly service its own population. Like many other things in China, the medical system was mostly a sham.

After graduating from medical school, the most well educated medical professionals in China went to the west to work.

The World Health Organization estimated that only about 4% of China’s medical professionals were prepared for a disease like SARS. And the medical staff was severely undermanned.

Finally, the system in place to monitor medical safety is overtaxed.

“There’s no quick fix,” says Henk Bekedam, the World Health Organization’s top representative in China. “China has perhaps been cutting some corners because the focus has been on growth. But they have 5,000 companies that produce medicine. That’s far too many.”

“The government has a limited ability to enforce things,” he said. “They need to start with simple things: reduce the number of people you monitor.”

Today, according to China’s own Ministry of Health (MOH), “In most countries, the ratio of the number of nurses to the total population is about 0.5 percent, but the ratio in China is only 0.1 percent.”

Recall the Bird Flu crisis? Phases One, Two and Three were used again. It seemed to me that there was a certain necessity to this for the Chinese leadership. When you have 1.3 Billion people you can’t have a complicated play book. And forget about innovation. When an American football quarterback would call an audible for perfectly valid reasons; China has to stick to a playbook that is simple and rehearsed. In many troubling situations, the only question China’s government leaders face is, “What Phase do you think we are in?”

In the food and product safety scandal that started in China this past spring, China was so taken by surprise that the government launched Phase Three without going through phases one and two. Despite plenty of signs that the tainted food (pet food, seafood, etc) and personal care items (cough syrup, toothpaste,etc) scandal was a big one, and still growing, on June 12, 2007, the deputy chief of mission of the Chinese Embassy in Washington D.C., Mr. Zheng Zeguang, held a mini-news conference with reporters.

The esteemed deputy chief of mission lied to reporters about food and product safety. He said American reporters had grossly exaggerated the issue.

How did I know he was lying? Because reports of products with problems continued to roll in. And because, in Washington D.C., then the Ambassador from China speaks you can be pretty sure he is telling the truth, as far as he knows it. But when the deputy chief of mission is rolled out: the Chinese typically have something to hide.

I hate to give that away but the Chinese know it is true and we know it is true.

At about the same time that the Chinese Embassy’s deputy chief of mission briefed reporters, Li Dongsheng, vice minister for the State Administration for Industry and Commerce in Chiina, told reporters in China that China had developed “very good, very complete methods” to regulate product safety.

“There is now largely no problem with food safety. It is an issue the people care about greatly,” Mr. Li said. “So if there is a small problem, it becomes a big problem for us. So basically for now, we can guarantee food safety.”

That had to be a lie too.

Later that same afternoon, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission announced a recall of some “Thomas Train” toy items. They were painted in China using lead paint which is toxic. Everyone in the world has known for decades that lead paint is toxic.

Of course the food and product safety scandal widened, even after China had said, “we can guarantee food safety.”
In the toothpast scandal, first poison was found in some Chinese toothpaste brands.  Then Colgate-Polmolive reported that up to 1 million tubes of counterfeit “Colgate” toothpaste had been discovered.  It was made in China.  It was also poisoned.

It occurred to me that China had entered Phase Three (schmooze, show that everything is O.K. and move on) even before Phase One and Two had been allowed to play out. By not following their own play book, China got tied up and tripped up in its own shoe laces.

What followed was a series of other “summer scandals” including an abuse of child worker scandal (they were making Beijing Olympics 2008 mementos) and a slavery scandal, to name a few.

Today, communist news organs and the India news agency IANS announced gleefully that China had secured another vote to assist its foreign policy goals in the United Nations.

Sudeshna Sarkar, reporting from Kathmandu, Nepal, for the India News Agency (IANS) wrote, “A bounty of 50 million Chinese yuan (over $6.5 million) and promises of more have procured for China fresh diplomatic support from Nepal, with the communist-majority Nepal government stating that it was opposed to Taiwan’s bid to join the UN.”

Excuse me? China is now BUYING votes in the U.N. from client governments and allies?

So we are back where we started.

Please excuse me if I am distrustful of just about everything said and done by China’s government.


U.N. Vote for Sale: China Buys an Ally

China Plans Happy Olympics But A Few “Small” Problems Remain

China Planning a Surreal Facade for Summer Olympic Games: Beijing 2008

NY Times: China Moves to Refurbish a Damaged Global Image