Recently, it was reported that melamine was found in US baby formula. With the plethora of products we receive from China everyday, this comes as no surprise. I wrote the article below in September, when the melamine outbreak was first reported.
On the heels of the Beijing Olympics, hailed by some as incredible feat and China’s first walk onto the international stage, comes another problem with tainted materials. Now, the government is reporting that 52,000 Chinese children have suffered the consequences of baby formula tainted with melamine, with four dying as a result. If China is actually admitting these numbers, the true number we can only imagine is much higher.
It’s worth mentioning that Games had one more tragedy not widely reported. China has become widely known for its shoddy workmanship and poisonous materials. Dancer Liu S. was supposed to have a starring role in the Opening Ceremonies, but tragically became paralyzed just twelve days before the event- she fell nearly to her death from a malfunctioning platform. She is lucky to be alive, and may never walk again let alone dance. (As a side note, life for a disabled person in China is one of extreme intolerance and hardship. In some ways, she would have sadly been better off dead.)
Melamine is widely used in China to fool their food inspection agency (whom can just as easily be bought off if one has the funds) into thinking a food product has high protein content, and thus more nutrition. Repeated exposure to melanine however, can cause reporductive damaage or cancer.
As with the other tainting scandals, China has not kept these quality products to themselves. Singapore and several African countries have reported issues with dairy products they have imported into their countries. In Singapore, the Yili brand “Choice Dairy Fruit Bar Yoghurt Flavored Ice Confection” and the Dutch Lady brand of strawberry-flavored milk in particular have tested positive for melamine.
Now, we hear that the Asian powerhouse is sending a third mission into space, quoting the astronauts having a conversation in space- before the ship had left Earth. The quotes had been available online, but the Xinhua news agency has since taken it off its site, and other companion sites, including surprisingly Yahoo!, have taken down the quotes as well.
None of this, however, surprises me. Foreigners (laowai) who have been to the great country will hear interminable good news- no fantastic news – about China. The miraculously booming economy, the 5,000 year history, the invention of paper, the oh-so-healthy cuisine. No one talks about a corrupt government which has led to a morally corrupt populace, a sociological nightmare where everyone lies through smiling teeth in order to have some chance of advancing themselves or their family.
When the government makes all the decisions, and the people are voiceless and powerless, such extravagant spending and ostentatious showboating is inevitable. Children are sick from corruption in the food safety agency; millions are displaced from the shoddy constructions that collapsed during a massive earthquake in Sichuan province; the unemployment rate for college graduates, entering an economy that does not need their expertise, but maybe needs more street-sweepers, is growing rapidly.
According to the State Council Information Office, the death toll from that quake is at 69,227; the number missing is a staggering 17,923; and the number injured is 374,643. This number is dubious, but even at face value, this is an unsavory number showing the unelected government’s lack of true concern for the people at both the local and national level.
“According to the Ministry of Civil Affairs, domestic and foreign donations had reached 59.468 billion yuan in cash and goods by Thursday noon. Of this, 26.88 billion yuan had been forwarded to quake-hit areas.” – (Xinhua News Agency’s English-language website, Sept. 25, 2008.) Not to burst anyone’s bubble, but the siphoning of donations by the government in order to buy more flashy foreign cars, suits and trips abroad is also common, undermining the giving spirit of the Chinese people.
Despite China’s great chance to show the world the face it wanted to expose at the Olympic Games, the truth of their corruption and lack of regard for human health and safety will be the lasting image of the country from this time period.