…from the quill of Antisthenes the Younger
On September 11, 2007 Shanghai’s Oriental Morning Post wrote that the Sanlu Group, the dairy corporation’s milk powder is being deliberately adulterated with melamine. Normally used in the manufacture of plastic, melamine does inflate the protein readings of milk products. When consumed, it attacks kidneys and in large doses it can kill babies. Melamine was being added even to the baby formula. Four days later the General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine confirmed that and issued a public warning. Its tests showed melamine in 22 Chinese dairy products. Beside Sanlu‘s, Mengniu, Yili and Bright milk was also found to be contaminated. Six infants died and over 294 000 became sick. Then the melamine was found in eggs, poultry, beef, pork, fish and mutton.
The New York Times, not famous for its readiness to offend the Chinese masters, reported that some Chinese citizens were trying to attract the official attention as early as June – and received the treatment expected from the communist dictatorship. The Peking Olympics were imminent and anybody suggesting that China is not the best between heaven and earth was unpatriotic, to say the least. A few dead babies in so many millions? Do not bother the politburo.
In the interest of fairness it has to be pointed out that the Sanlu Group was a joint venture with the New Zealand dairy Fonterra which had 43% share and had three members on the board. They were informed of the problem on the 3rd August, allegedly suggested a public recall, were overruled and did nothing further until after the media exposure. When later challenged they said they had elected to work inside the Chinese system. The Almighty renmibni.
The publicity forced the government to act. They had two company officials executed, jailed another – maybe four, maybe fourteen and established a list of prohibited additives. It was no longer legal to add melamine, insecticides, drain cleaners, formaldehyde and industrial dyes to food. Desperate measure indeed; anything to avoid a scandal during the Olympics, anything to protect China’s image. Profit be damned (for a while).
Some try to excuse the Chinese Communists’ megalomania by the alleged average Asian’s need to “save face”. The vaunted “face” is nothing but euphemism for overblown egos of people unwilling to admit their failings.
Chinese President Hu Jintao defends the China pristine culture and writes in the latest edition of Communist Party’s magazine, Seeking the Truth : “Hostile international powers are strengthening their efforts to Westernise and divide us.”
The sooner the better, some may say, if only for the sake of Chinese babies.