I have a treat for you, today. A Change of Pace Post. I was reading my news feeds when I came across a post on Down With Tyranny! A little left of liberal, this blog is a daily reader for me. Some of the political analysis is very sharp and I generally agree with the cynical wit in its tone.
Today, one of its bloggers published a piece entitled "Is it safe to eat or drink anything in China?" The title was enough to make me cringe. Turns out, the stupid title is the best part of the post. Framing the body of text about the Chinese government wanting the judicial system to crack down on food safety regulations violators, even suggesting the death penalty be applied to some violators, and a quick summary of famous food problems, is a very problematic intro and conclusion. The post is below my commentary in its entirety.
Look, I loathe the Republican Party. I hate American Conservativism. I'm a strident anti-capitalist. But the post is bad even though it's directed at Republicans I love to hate. In my opinion, the author wants to convey three things: 1) He or She will be as vegan as can be, whatever that means; 2) He or She is frightened to eat or drink anything in China; 3) He or She doesn't like Republicans. That's fine, I suppose. It's not necessarily interesting, but nothing wrong with the desire to convey these truths. Unless, you decide to convey them with a claim that Asia is so fundamentally corrupt that the Republicans who want to emulate Chinese business models must be worse.
You should not do this. It's a racist claim. In this post, the Republicans aren't bad because the US economy is corrupt and our government is corrupt, too. In this post, the Republicans are bad because all of Asia is corrupt. Here's how I'd summarize the blog: "Chinese business is very corrupt; well, Asian business is naturally corrupt, don't you know. We've already proved that in other posts. Trust us. Anyway, you might be served dog meat at any moment in place of other meat in China, and you can't be sure the bottled water is safe. Oh, well, I'm a vegan so at least I don't have to worry about the dog meat part of the problem over there. Anyway, because the Chinese are handing out the death penalty, maybe in the future some time, for food safety regulation violations and the Republicans want to snuff out most regulation in the US, the Republicans are super bad because Chinese business practices are, as we've already shown, naturally corrupt." That's the fucking post. I'm not kidding. The tags for the blog are: China and Regulation. No mention of Republicans, the immensity and immediacy of US food problems. Instead, the author rolls out the infamous stories we already know about Chinese food poisoning and lax regulation.
I'm really pissed about two things:
- So, it's not corrupt capitalist practice in Asia that is at fault for the horrifying business practices in China. No, it's the "nature of commerce" in all of Asia that is corrupt. What a claim! It's the nature of commerce. If you don't see the problem, let me explain. The point of the blog is to shame Republicans. All the stories about food safety in the middle of the post can be dumped because the blog is about the first several paragraphs and the last line. The real concern for the author is that commerce in North America is corrupt and becoming more corrupt and in China it's already very corrupt. Therefore, it's a problem that Republicans want to emulate Chinese business and regulatory practices. OK. We get it. But the nature comment is way out of line. It offers our corrupt commerce then, now and in the future a pass, in that a reader can infer by the initial claim that we have a different commerce in nature. Namely, one that is not naturally corrupt. As in, we are better than them. It's a fucking nationalist, exceptionalist swipe at Republicans by a progressive blogger. This, more than anything else in the post, deserves condemnation. They are bad because they are like The Chinese, the people who do naturally corrupt things.
- Dog meat references. What point do they serve? It's a racist dog whistle. Mix it with the smug reference to the author's veganism and we have proof that the post is nothing more than a hysterical and neurotic grunt: a half-assed attack on Republicans. It's lazy stuff. And it's smug.
The post follows with all emboldened text my added emphasis:
This morning we tried to make the point that the very nature of commerce in China-- in Asia really-- is built on fraud and corruption. Reactionary American politicians like Pat Toomey (R-PA), Ron Johnson (R-WI) and John Boehner (R-OH) admire China so much-- Communism or not-- because their financial and commercial system embodies the very depths of caveat emptor taken to the extreme. In two weeks I'll be back in China and, I have to admit, I know I have to be warier than in most places about what I consume. What's in the bottled water? How safe is it to eat in a restaurant, even a highly rated one?(source: Down With Tyranny! Here's the post on their site.)
So it was with some interest that I noted yesterday that China will be handing out the death penalty for food safety violators. An announcement like that presupposes some real problems that need to be addressed. Their highest court has ordered lower court judges to toughen up the sentences for people violating food safety standards "amid deepening public concerns over the country's food safety following a wave of recent scandals." If someone dies because of food safety violations, the death penalty is now in order-- and government officials taking bribes to protect the criminals will also be facing harsher penalties.
From milk laced with melamine, pigs fed with performance-enhancing drugs to watermelons juiced up with growth-stimulating chemicals, a series of recent scandals have outraged Chinese consumers, despite ramped-up government crackdown and state media campaign against food safety violations.
From last September to April this year, Chinese courts have tried and convicted 106 people accused of violating food safety, including two who received life imprisonment last month in a "melamine milk" case, Xinhua reported.
As vegan as I can be-- especially when traveling in dodgy countries-- I'm not worried about being fed dog meat disguised as something else. But I am interested in the new organic food movement started to sprout up in China's cities. Can it be trusted? Maybe...
In recent years China has been hit by a number of food scandals and fears about safety have lingered. In 2008, 300,000 babies became seriously ill and six babies died after being given formula contaminated with the industrial chemical melamine. In April this year, police seized 40 tons of beansprouts which had been treated with dangerous growth promoting chemicals and hormones, while this month, watermelons started exploding in the fields because they had been treated with too much accelerant.
In March health officials discovered pork that glowed and iridescent blue in the dark because it had been contaminated by a bacteria.
Amid the scares it was reported that China's government departments were running their own organic farms to feed staff, sparking criticism that officials were putting their own safety before that of the people. ... [O]rganic farmers and a host of co-operative schemes that lease small parcels of land to urbanites who want to feel the soil under their fingernails-- not unlike British allotment schemes-- report business is suddenly booming.
Peng Xunan, the founder of the "Farmlander" allotment scheme that has 200 sites across China said the plots were being rented in ever-growing numbers, and no longer just be pensioners looking to occupy their time.
"I'd say it was split three ways between families who want to teach their children where food comes from, older people in their retirement, but in recent months definitely a growing number worried about food safety concerns after all these reports of lax food safety," he said.
Interestingly, the other China-- Taiwan-- is having a similar situation, with legislators urging tougher penalties for tainted food and better regulations for factories manufacturing food products, particularly sports drinks, juices, tea drinks, fruit jam or syrups, tablets or powders, all of which have been found to be poisoned with plasticizers.
A legislator of the ruling Kuomintang proposed yesterday to revise regulations to levy stiffer penalties on suppliers of food products that threaten consumers' health, establish an information system for all products, and change the listing of plasticizers in the second category of toxic chemical products.
...Chang pointed out that the current law only stipulates fines between NT$60,000 and NT$300,000 for using plasticizers like carcinogen di(2-ethylhexyl) phthalate (DEHP) or other toxic substances in food and beverages, not enough to deter unconscionable food processors and suppliers from harming consumers.
An integrated registration mechanism should be set up to record all information concerning raw materials, components, additives, manufacturing and packaging to help manage every step of the food and beverage supply chain, Chang said.
Such a product identity system will also help to track products, he added.
Oh-- and the crackdown and regulations... that's not what Toomey, Johnson and Boehner admire about China.