China: Contaminated Food and Intellectual Property

By August 10, 2007Global Warming, Trade

Following James Fallows’ balanced and informative cover piece in the July/August issue of The Atlantic Monthly, “China Makes, the World Takes,” we’ve been keeping up with his blog, too, posted at Useful perspective and first-hand reporting. This recent post about the official Chinese response to sore points with the United States seemed right on point, too, just judging from what we’ve read in the headlines here.

There are areas where, as best I can tell, the Chinese authorities actually struggle to Do the Right Thing when it comes to international responsibilities. For instance, a U.S. business bigshot who visited Shanghai yesterday said that not one of the Chinese officials he’d recently met in Beijing had “been in denial” about the country’s food safety problems. They didn’t pretend that the poison-pet food stories and related horrific accounts were somehow anti-Chinese or unfair; instead they admitted that there were big problems to deal with.

Then there is the realm of intellectual property, where to a first approximation the government doesn’t lift a finger to prevent counterfeiting. Maybe that’s unfair — I’m only judging on what I see. Like, the video stores full of 90-cent DVDs of all recent movies. Or a report like this, from a state-controlled English-language newspaper, about the abundance of Chinese translations of the last Harry Potter book available free, on line. Howard French of the New York Times has just written a related story.

This story today seems to reaffirm the first part of Fallows’ observations.

BEIJING: China still faces significant food safety challenges, a health official said on Friday, as Beijing announced it had banned 18 products ranging from fruit drinks to stewed chicken feet as they failed quality standards.

Also, China cracks down on illegal pesticides.

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