While China points the finger

China has been pointing the finger at New Zealand and criticising our 100% Pure branding. Trying to say New Zealand is 100% “pure festering sore”. The left wing of course has jumped onboard with this because running down the country is preferable to them.

But while China uses this scandal as a negotiating ploy to extract substantial discounts for new orders they really should be getting their own house in order before shamelessly pointing the finger at us.

The New York times in an article titled “Life in a Toxic Country” they examine and expose the startling hypocrisy of the Chinese government.

I RECENTLY found myself hauling a bag filled with 12 boxes of milk powder and a cardboard container with two sets of air filters through San Francisco International Airport. I was heading to my home in Beijing at the end of a work trip, bringing back what have become two of the most sought-after items among parents here, and which were desperately needed in my own household.

China is the world’s second largest economy, but the enormous costs of its growth are becoming apparent. Residents of its boom cities and a growing number of rural regions question the safety of the air they breathe, the water they drink and the food they eat. It is as if they were living in the Chinese equivalent of the Chernobyl or Fukushima nuclear disaster areas.

Puts a little bit of botox in some milk powder in perspective doesn’t it.

Before this assignment, I spent three and a half years reporting in Iraq, where foreign correspondents talked endlessly of the variety of ways in which one could die — car bombs, firefights, being abducted and then beheaded. I survived those threats, only now to find myself wondering: Is China doing irreparable harm to me and my family?  

Comparing China’s environment with warzones now, where just breathing their air is harmful.

The environmental hazards here are legion, and the consequences might not manifest themselves for years or even decades. The risks are magnified for young children. Expatriate workers confronted with the decision of whether to live in Beijing weigh these factors, perhaps more than at any time in recent decades. But for now, a correspondent’s job in China is still rewarding, and so I am toughing it out a while longer. So is my wife, Tini, who has worked for more than a dozen years as a journalist in Asia and has studied Chinese. That means we are subjecting our 9-month-old daughter to the same risks that are striking fear into residents of cities across northern China, and grappling with the guilt of doing so.

Like them, we take precautions. Here in Beijing, high-tech air purifiers are as coveted as luxury sedans. Soon after I was posted to Beijing, in 2008, I set up a couple of European-made air purifiers used by previous correspondents. In early April, I took out one of the filters for the first time to check it: the layer of dust was as thick as moss on a forest floor. It nauseated me. I ordered two new sets of filters to be picked up in San Francisco; those products are much cheaper in the United States. My colleague Amy told me that during the Lunar New Year in February, a family friend brought over a 35-pound purifier from California for her husband, a Chinese-American who had been posted to the Beijing office of a large American technology company. Before getting the purifier, the husband had considered moving to Suzhou, a smaller city lined with canals, because he could no longer tolerate the pollution in Beijing.

Pot, Kettle Black Soot, China.

 Statistics released Wednesday by the Ministry of Environmental Protection revealed that air quality in Beijing was deemed unsafe for more than 60 percent of the days in the first half of 2013. The national average was also dismal: it failed to meet the safety standard in nearly half the days of the same six-month period. The environment minister, Zhou Shengxian, told People’s Daily, the Communist Party mouthpiece, that “China’s air quality is grim, and the amount of pollution emissions far exceeds the environment’s capacity.”

Nasty. And they dare to accuse us of pollution and contamination.

This winter, I bought a British-made face mask after levels of fine particulate matter hit a record high in January in some areas — 40 times the exposure limit recommended by the World Health Organization. Foreigners called it the “airpocalypse,” and a growing number are leaving China because of the smog or demanding hardship pay from their employers.

One American doctor here has procured a mask for his infant son. My mask of sleek black fabric and plastic knobs makes me look like an Asian Darth Vader. Better that, though, than losing years of my life.

Yeah China is so pure.

THIS spring, new data released from the 2010 Global Burden of Disease Study, first published in The Lancet, revealed that China’s outdoor pollution contributed to 1.2 million premature deaths in 2010, or 40 percent of the worldwide total. Another study, published by a prominent American science journal in July, found that northern Chinese lived five fewer years on average than their southern counterparts because of the widespread use of coal in the north.

Cancer rates are surging in China, and even the state news media are examining the relation between that and air pollution. Meanwhile, studies both in and outside of China have shown that children with prenatal exposure to high levels of air pollutants exhibit signs of slower mental development and of behavior disorders. Research from Los Angeles shows that children in polluted environments are also at risk for permanent lung damage.

In northern China, shades of gray distinguish one day from another. My wife and I sometimes choose our vacation destinations based on how much blue we can expect to see — thus a recent trip to Tuscany and the Amalfi Coast. I will never take such skies for granted again. “We still can’t get over how blue the skies are here,” the wife of an American diplomat told me over dinner in Georgetown more than half a year after the couple had moved back to Washington from Beijing.

Blue sky in Auckland today. Lovely day, nice clean air. Since they are going on about food safety…what about that…the author continues.

Food safety is the other issue weighing on us. We have heard the stories of rat meat being passed off as lamb at hotpot restaurants, cooking oil being recycled and crops being grown in soil polluted by heavy metals or wastewater from factories. The food catastrophe that most frightened both Chinese and foreign parents was the milk scandal of 2008, in which six babies died and at least 300,000 children fell ill after drinking milk products tainted with melamine, a toxic chemical. Since then, many parents of newborns have gone to great lengths to bring into China foreign-made infant milk powder when it is needed to supplement breast-feeding.

Which is understandable and why they are now having conniptions, but they killed 6 babies with their milk scandal, how many have died with our one? Oh that’s right NONE.

Not just food either.

Each day that passes in Beijing makes it harder to discern the fine line between paranoia and precaution. Six years ago, when I was back in my hometown Alexandria, Va., to pack for my move to China, my mother handed me several tubes of toothpaste. She had read stories that summer of toxic toothpaste made in China. I felt as if I was going off to college for my freshman year all over again. I put the tubes back in my parents’ bathroom. When I go home these days, my mother still on occasion gives me toothpaste to bring back to Beijing, and I no longer hesitate to pack it in my bag.

China should sort out their own shit before they go pointing the finger at us. If any country is a “festoring sore” it is China.


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  • Col

    Beijing is shit when it comes to smog, it is thick and nasty stuff, even worse when the sandy dust comes in from Mongolia, like a bush fire in Aussy can’t see anything, never see the sun, like sniffing sand up your nose, better in the smaller towns, that’s for sure.
    Beijing did stop all this when they had the Games on, and Beijing was ok, so they can stop the smog if they want. Bring back the bikes!!!!

  • FredFrog

    Why not tell them they can’t buy any more of our houses if they won’t buy our milk?

  • tarkwin

    Send Russel over to sort things out.

  • CheesyEarWax

    A festering sore we maybe but you’re still a fucking communist.

  • John Q Public

    We’ve all misunderstood “100% Pure New Zealand”. It’s means “Completely New Zealand” not “New Zealand is 100% Pure”.

    I suppose the fact everyone seems to think it’s the latter suggests it’s worked as a double-entendre.

    What would China’s slogan be?

    • Hazards001

      Their slogan would be “China…exporting cheap unskilled incompetent labour to undercut the rates of kiwis by failing to pay tax since 1999 thanks Helen”

    • AngryTory

      What would China’s slogan be?

      We have an economy.

      All your jobs are belong to us!

  • johnbronkhorst

    I don’t like it, but I understand the extreme reaction of the Chinese.
    They have a “one child” policy. They are very sensitive about it. If that child is sick or dies, pretty much the whole family is finished! I can see how this something the Chinese govt. MUST over react to, otherwise their citizens will accuse them of not caring.
    So listen to what they say (which is extreme), but watch what they do, which is actually quite measured compared to the rhetoric.

    • conwaycaptain

      It looks like the one child policy will be history soon. The Chinese now have a rapidly ageing population and will soon have a dramatically falling population and the cheap labour will have dried up in 5-10 years.
      Their products that require quality a CRAP. Ask anyone who has sailed on a Chinese built ship.

  • cows4me

    The Chinese will try to screw the scrum, anything to make a yuan. They know full well this issue is a pimple on a whales arse compared to the bullshit their companies and corporations pull. They will of course want a substantial discount. I say call their bluff, they need us just as much as we need them. If they refuse to let products in put them in the auction and let the cards fall. I would rather take a lower standard of living then live in constant fear of been bullied by these goons.

    • Hazards001

      I see the auction went fairly well today.

    • AngryTory

      they need us just as much as we need them

      no, they don’t. They really, really, don’t.

  • Anonymouse Coward

    Xinhua had better lay off or our Prime Minister will be provoked into meeting His Holiness the Dalai Lama and make a public statement His Holiness is the true representative of the Tibetan people.

    I’m sure the gung-ho editor who provoked this would be unpopular in the Propaganda and Public Information Department

  • J

    I don’t think you guys are getting the picture here. As a Chinese I can disclose that the piece isn’t for us Kiwis’ consumption, but it takes place in the midst of a fierce power struggle within the CPC itself between the current president Xi Jinping and ex-president Jiang Zemin. The central propaganda ministry and Xinhua are controlled by a faction and it’s a warning signal to Xi to not initiate political reform.

    Also about one child policy: I can tell you all government and party officials have their food produced in special farms with proper hygiene and safety. They don’t care what poison the ordinary non-officials have absorbed through food…

    • J

      Remember, when you read every official commentary from China on foreign affairs and institutional things, it has as much to do with domestic politics as foreign affairs. Hope you don’t fall under the stereotype naive Westerner trap that Western observers of China often fall victim to.

      • wiltinpenis

        It’s a big country full of lots of varied cultures, unlike our tiny nation, where we are Aucklanders, Northlanders, or South of the Bombays.

  • Lou

    Those Americans were always pretty clever – the Chinese thought the US were outsourcing manufacturing, while in reality the US was outsourcing its pollution.

    Clever them ‘mericans hey!

  • The difference, I believe, is that the Chinese have never claimed to have a ‘100% clean, green environment’. Whereas we never stop rabbiting on about it. Just my 2c.

    • Mr_V4

      Yes it’s pretty poor and immature we have to engage in some blatant China bashing because our dairy giant can’t get its QA/QC in order.
      I mean China lifting a few hundred million out of poverty isn’t enough for Whale.

  • expat

    Your welcome for the link via dpf.

  • steve and monique

    Pot, Kettle , black. Words of which should be included in a statement for China,

  • AngryTory

    China has a free capitalist economy and makes profits.

    NZ has a vast amount regulations, and pays welfare.

    pretty clear which has a future and which doesn’t.