China's run-ins with the west are much in the news following the recent US pet food scare.
But according to this
(free) Wall Street Journal article, the percentage of recalled goods
among Chinese exports to Europe is declining, and the recent spate of
product recalls are “just a blip” according to one western lawyer
interviewed. Let's hope so.
At the International Consumer Product Safety Conference, being held
this week in Beijing, western experts urged China to improve its act
and reduce the number of product recalls. Alarm bells are ringing
following a growing number of incidents involving counterfeit drugs and
sub-standard agricultural goods imported from China.
Almost without realising it, the west has become heavily dependent
on China for food, just as happened in the past with T-shirts and toys.
According to this International Herald Tribune article, 80% of the apple juice concentrate used in the US comes from China.
China currently exports more than $30bn annually in food and drugs to Asia, North America and Europe, so a lot is at stake.
China has been caught off guard by this issue which strikes to the
heart of the whole debate about China's current development model.
“Pile it high and sell it cheap” has become the motto for much China's
export sector and the key to its phenomenal economic growth.
But the west is apparently waking up to the consequences of its
insatiable appetite for cheap Chinese imports, namely, goods are often
of poor quality or, in some cases, downright dangerous.
Corrupt officials take some of the blame. The former head of China's
food and drug safety watchdog is standing trial in Beijing for
accepting bribes and failing to curb the growing market in fake and
But Chinese companies could do a lot more by ensuring that their
oft-expressed desires to boost quality, improve safety and protect
intellectual property rights are put into practice — by employing
external auditors, for example.
Perhaps, as the western lawyer claims, China is now taking take this
issue more seriously, but we suspect that once the outcry over poisoned
pets has been forgotten, the controls will once again be relaxed,
status quo as no-one wants to apply the break to China's export machine.