Four-Month Plan

The Chinese government has announced a special, four-month program (also contains lanolin) to combat defective and tainted products:

China has launched a four-month “war” on tainted food, drugs and exports, state media reported on Friday, as beleaguered officials embraced time-tested campaign tactics to clean up the country’s battered image.

Chinese Vice Premier Wu Yi told officials the campaign, to run to the end of the year, would focus on problem products that have badly dented domestic and foreign consumers’ confidence in the “Made in China” label.

“This is a special battle to protect the health and personal interests of the public and to protect the reputation of Chinese goods and the national image,” Wu said, according to the government Web site.


Shaken by the product scares, China has fought back with new rules, factory shutdowns, constant news conferences and now an old-style campaign to shake up local officials often more focused on economic-growth targets.

Wu blamed lax inspection and enforcement and failure of officials in rival agencies to cooperate. She vowed to whip them into line with a list of eight tasks and 20 specific goals.

“Clearly, this is an autocratic, top-down approach using campaigning methods,” said Mao Shoulong, an expert on public policy at the People’s University of China.

“In China, this campaigning method still has a role to play in addressing relatively simple problems, because when grassroots officials see the premier or vice premier taking up an issue, focusing on it, they know they also have to sit up and pay attention.”

Make no mistake: this is a public relations move like the execution of the former head of China’s national food and drug safety agency. It will do nothing to address the real problems which go right to the heart of China’s government, society, and economic boom. The government is subsidizing production for export; companies are responding to the incentives. Who can blame them? Companies can’t function in China without the acquiescence (and participation) of local officials—the same local officials responsible for enforcing safety regulations. See the conflict?

China is an unimaginably big country. The number of companies and local officials is similarly unimaginably big. Difficult for us to understand but these companies and officials aren’t corrupt by Chinese standards—they’re just doing the things that make their society function.

Dangerous toys, fabrics, seafood, tires, food ingredients, batteries, pet food. Don’t think you can avoid them—you can’t. Not every product made in China can be identified as made in China. And, of course, not every product made in China is dangerous or defective. The minority of dangerous and defective products hide in the enormous torrent of safe and benign products.

The solution is greater responsibility on the part of the companies that are importing the torrent and not merely attention to products they’re importing directly from China but to all products, particularly to products imported from places where our consumer product safety laws don’t reach. Due diligence. Accept no substitutes!

2 comments… add one
  • PD Shaw Link

    Nothing like going to your nephew’s birthday party and watching new toys snatched from his hands because they’ve been recalled.

    I think Mattel will be hurting for a long time from this. I think their name is now strongly associated with Chinese and unless they completely certify they are Chinese free (and take the financial hit) they will remain so.

  • The problem is that neither Mattel nor any other company at this point can determine that a product is really “China Free”. The most they can assert is that they didn’t import it from China. They can’t ensure that there overseas sources didn’t.

    As I said in the post: due diligence. Testing. On-site inspections. Relationships with vendors.

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