In America, we throw around baseless and selective accusations against established, well-entrenched institutions and frequently are then awarded Academy Awards for Best Documentary Feature.
In Italy, they frequently elect street criminals to parliament and consider political corruption a check against an overreaching government, but still have the national pride to put all of the faith in the Catholic Church.
In China, they shoot Food and Drug administrators.
To each, as they say, their own.
China has awoken, and found itself capitalist. Okay, it’s not capitalist in the capital-C, Adam Smith-worshipping, unsolicited-fellation-from-the-Heritage-Foundation manner; let’s just say that the People’s Paradise seems to have a lot more clothing boutiques and upscale coffee shops than Mao cooked up in a five-year plan. Note that “capitalist” doesn’t also mean “democracy,” since the Chinese version of participatory government is that most citizens are permitted to grumble approvingly in lieu of actual votes.
Many in America are fearful of the Celestial Empire. Not because of the fact that they probably have nukes or that their army is approximately 5 billion people strong or that any day now they’re going to invade Formosa and trigger World War Five, it’s because they may be able to undercut us by pricing generic-brand detergent and chew bones below cost.
Me, personally, I am concerned about the Chinese military. I mean, the guys invented fireworks about eight hundred years ago and haven’t done much with it since. I strongly suspect they’ve invented something cool and/or insanely destructive, and are just waiting for Hong Kong to misplace a decimal point or Taiwan to forget to pick up the kinds on Sunday before they drop the big one, as it were, which I can only assume will explode in the air and appear above the sky as a red, white, and blue eagle before it rains hellfire down upon the battlefield. Their other invention, paper, I’m much less impressed with.
There’s been a recent scare of trade woes from China where the product quality is somewhat wanting:
·There was toothpaste that turned out to have traces of an antifreeze thickening agent, an additive not found to have a significant impact on dental care, though it does have the side effect of irreversible weight loss.
·Pet food was found to have contaminated wheat gluten in doses strong enough to pass through human gastronomical systems but not for Fido and Peachtree, a rather odd oversight considering that “crab” Rangoon I ate last week.
·Certain items in the Thomas the Symbol of Capitalist Repression Through Bourgeoisie Transportation Methods catalog was found to contain trace amounts of lead in the decorative paint. This is doubly unfortunate, since anyone who has ever watched a child under the age of four for more than two seconds knows that, if handed an item the size of Thomas the Tank Engine, the child will immediately determine whether this is something that can be placed and held inside of their mouth by immediately trying to swallow it.
Americans take a lot of crap from foreigners, whether it be diplomatic rebuffs, holier-than-thou self-satisfaction, or Jude Law. But mess with our teeth, pets, or child’s chance of getting into a good preschool without drooling all over the entrance exam, and it’s time to take the gloves off.
China is trying to improve its reputation for a number of reasons. Firstly, it’s an emerging power and despite its autocratic government and patchy progression levels, the Chinese know a bad PR move when they see one. Without selling plastic Naruto dolls and novelty cake decorations to distracted Yanquis trying to find something to spend their greenbacks on before they throw it into a big pile of burning garbage, so long as they don’t accidentally pay off more than the minimum mortgage payment, the Chinese economy would crumble like a deck of cards and they’d have to go back to trying to melt steel in their back yard. And by “back yard” I mean “Japan.”
Most importantly, though, the Olympics are set to begin in Beijing in 2008. Cracking open China to all of the reporters of the world is going to be a first. Certainly, the press in China has been freer than it has in the past—investigative reporters are only having their children threatened to be shot instead of actually being shot—for many this will be the first time reporters are allowed relatively free access to an area that engages in a foreign, baffling, and ultimately mysterious culture unseen since Salt Lake City.
All of these factors, alas, coincide rather unhappily with poor ex-FDA-or-whatever-they-call-it-in-China chief Zheng Xiaoyu. To fill the pharmaceutical company’s coffers, he repeatedly granted approval for several types of drugs that turned out to be fictitious. Although how that’s any different than marketing Xanax I’ll never know. He was lax in enforcing existing food regulations, and dozens of people from around the world became ill and in some cases died from subpar rice cakes, drinking water, and heart medication.
Some nations will publicly execute a traitor as an example to others. Some citizens will string up a tinpot dictator to send a message that liberty is worth fighting for. Some nations pin their hopes and dreams on fruitless brushfire wars and unmistakably immoral terror strikes. And some government choose to execute their bureaucrats to send a forceful message about misappropriating the regulation of diethylene glycol, so that all others who wish to disregard the growing menace of trace amounts of diethylene glycol in exported goods should learn.
To each, as they say, their own.