The tainted milk scandal is still spreading across China. The list of problematic dairy products is getting longer. It is said that almost 8,000 tons of tainted powdered milk were taken off Chinese shelves. The international community is also responding to the issue quickly. Many countries banned imported dairy products from China; the list of countries includes the United States, Europe, many Asian, African, and Latin American countries. The U.S. government also warned consumers some stores that import goods from China may still be carrying illegal dairy products.
[Editors' Note: At this time, the U.S. government has investigated many products and many have been recalled, but there is no outright ban on Chinese dairy products.]
The tainted milk has damaged the credibility of Made-in-China products more than any other substandard Chinese products. The World Health Organization and UNICEF issued statements asking for a thorough investigation into the incident. Many critics blame China’s ongoing information blockade and say it’s the SARS incident replayed. Some reports indicated Beijing blocked the information in order to ensure smooth sailing for the Olympics.
Government and People Credibility Gap
It sounds inconceivable, but during the past decades of the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) rule, inconceivable news often turned out to be true. This has stopped ordinary people from trusting any official news and caused Chinese society to fall into a creditability crisis.
You can wave your little red flag showing your support for the CCP. You believe hiding your distrust of the government can prevent the government from hurting you. Unfortunately the tainted milk will not spare your children and neither will various poisonous foods and dangerous goods. Ms. He Qinglian, an expert on China issues, described this issue explicitly, “This is an era when I harm others and others harm me.”
Everyone believes covering up their conscience can protect them from harm. In the end, everyone becomes a victim. In a dictatorial society where one has to lie to survive, the system endangers the people and tainted milk is only one of many incidents that have surfaced.
SARS All Over Again
After SARS, people realized what caused this catastrophe was not the disease itself but the information blockade. Even some wise people inside the Chinese government had learned from this. Modern medicine can efficiently restrain the spread of the disease, but blocking information does the opposite.
The tainted milk incident is very similar to the spread of SARS. We have learned so far that the tainted milk industry is an open secret in China concealed by the dictatorial system. Last year poisonous Chinese pet food killed many cats and dogs in the United States and was thus banned. But the truth was still concealed in China and the news was tagged as an “imperialistic and anti-Chinese conspiracy” to instigate extreme nationalism to distract the public’s focus.
It never occurred to those extreme nationalists in China that American imperialism protects its dogs and cats far better than the Chinese regime protects its people. You may love the CCP but it never loves you in return. Your children were victimized by the milk while the CCP propaganda machines were still downplaying the severity. The media are not allowed to discuss what really happened and had to report how well the government dealt with the scandal and how it was all the profiteers and milk farmers’ fault. It felt like SARS all over again.
Freedom of Speech/Press the Only Answer
If the people accept these lies and continue to let the wrongdoers get by easily, there will be more catastrophes waiting. Activists have been calling on the CCP to open up freedom of speech and press, not just for political reform, but for the mere survival of ordinary people. If not, incidents like SARS and tainted milk will continue to emerge and there will be no peace for the people- nothing is safe anymore.
Hence, the first step of reform is to return the freedom of speech and the press to the people. Many ordinary people think political reform is the officials’ business. Incidents like SARS and tainted milk have taught us it is everyone’s business. As the technology takes off, it accelerates evil deeds as well. Without a modern political system to manage society, catastrophes take place quickly and fiercely and ordinary people have no means to cope with them. Political reform is closely related to everyone and a modernized governing system for society is related to everyone’s survival.
China’s modernization must be a complete modernization, including the political system. The current crippled so called modernization (economic modernization only) may not be a good thing, and may bring us more catastrophes.