Feature

Striking back over tainted exports.

The week's news at a glance.

China

Okay, we admit it, said the Hong Kong Wen Wei Po in an editorial. A “small number of products” that China exports to the U.S. have “quality problems.” That’s understandable; no country has a perfect record of export safety. On a few occasions, in fact, American products exported to China, such as pacemakers, harvesters, and generators, also “were found to have safety problems.” The proper action in such cases is for both parties to agree on how to vet product safety. Unfortunately, “some U.S. politicians” seize upon isolated instances of defective merchandise to “demonize and defame” China for political gain. That is regrettable—and counterproductive. China has already retaliated by holding up U.S. pork intended for the Chinese market. In such a tit-for-tat game, no one can win.

The truth is, Chinese food is safer than American food, said the Beijing People’s Daily. According to “an impartial observer,” Japan’s Health Ministry, the percentage of food from China found to be unsatisfactory is just 0.58 percent, compared with 0.62 percent of E.U. food exports and 1.31 percent of American food exports. Yet the Chinese government has decided that even this sterling record of safety is not good enough. Vice Premier Wu Yi has announced a “special war” on unsafe additives and unsanitary practices. The State Council will inspect and license every food processing plant in the country.

The inspections are “great news for Chinese consumers,” said Wang Xiangwei in the Hong Kong South China Morning Post. Authorities have long “exercised tight control over the quality of exports,” but they practically ignored goods intended for local consumption. Chinese consumers have unwittingly consumed fish treated with banned antibiotics, tofu laced with carcinogens, and—in the worst domestic food scandal in memory—fake baby formula that killed dozens of Chinese kids. None of these scandals, though, prompted the government to start inspecting local producers. No, it was tainted pet food that killed a few American pets that inspired this nationwide soul-searching. Still, “mainland consumers have every reason to be thankful. They have been by far the biggest victims of substandard or fake products and will be the biggest beneficiaries.”

Laurence Brahm

South China Morning Post

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