Wednesday, January 30, 2008

China: Toxic Toys and Dubious Dumplings Aren't Signs of Terrorism

During 2007, I started to think that China might be a sort of stealth partner in the War on Terror.

Don't laugh: China has developed a reputation as a major exporter of poison
  • Pet Food
  • Toothpaste
  • Seafood (remember the puffer fish labeled "monkfish?" Tasty, but the tetrodotoxin is toxic)
  • Food, including April, 2007's
    • salted bean curd cubes in brine with chili and sesame oil
    • Dried apples
    • Dried peaches
    • Dried pears
    • Dried round bean curds
    • Dried mushrooms
    • Olives
    • Frozen bay scallops
    • Frozen Pacific cod
    • Sardines
    • Frozen seafood mix
    • Fermented bean curd
  • Cough syrup (remember those dead Panamanians?)
  • Toys
I considered the possibility that China was systematically and deliberately poisoning Americans.

It sounds crazy, but the idea had merit. In warfare, it can be better to wound, not kill, enemy soldiers. For example, landmines are presumably designed, not to kill, but to maim: "because more resources are used caring for an injured soldier than a dead soldier."

It was possible, if unlikely, that China was engaged in a risky strategy of draining foreign resources by lacing exports with various poisons - and hadn't counted on foreigners having the forensic tools necessary to tell where the poison came from.

China and Islam have been in contact at least since a Tang Dynasty emperor ordered a mosque built, over a thousand years ago. Considering the unlikely allies in the Axis, a China-Radical Islam cooperation isn't inconceivable.

It's not likely, though.

It's hard to see what China has to gain by helping madcap Muslims and their beheading brigades. Particularly since neither sharia nor Hanafi law would likely be a good fit with Chinese law or custom.

Besides, China relies on exports of low-cost products, much as Japan did before establishing its reputation in the automotive and electronics industries. And poisoning one's customers isn't good for sales.

China is acting as if it wants to detoxify its products. Last August, when poisonous Sesame Street toys were traced back to lead-laced paint used by the Lee Der Industrial Company, one of the owners "committed suicide." Over in China, disgraced officials are more likely to kill themselves, than demand golden-parachute severance packages. And Cheung Shu-hung had made the mistake of getting poison paint from a good friend of his.

The same month, China declared a four-month program to restore the reputation of its products: and, presumably, stop dropping toxins into what it exports.

The program may be a success: only eight people in Japan got desperately sick from insecticide-flavored Chinese dumplings. One of them, a five-year-old girl, is still in a coma.

The impression I get is that China is like a third-world country the size of an empire. China isn't trying to poison foreigners: It's struggling to make the transition from a traditional system of bribery and favoritism to one in which objective standards apply. (Yes, I know: China was "second world" during the Cold War.)


Ottavio (Otto) Marasco said...

Good short analysis, not a sign of terrorism... Also a sign of a rapidly growing economy (and exporter) having problems keeping up with standards whilst in pursuit of a buck.

Brian H. Gill said...

American Interests,

Thanks for the good words. That is the way I see it.

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Note! Although I believe that these websites and blogs are useful resources for understanding the War on Terror, I do not necessarily agree with their opinions. 1 1 Given a recent misunderstanding of the phrase "useful resources," a clarification: I do not limit my reading to resources which support my views, or even to those which appear to be accurate. Reading opinions contrary to what I believed has been very useful at times: sometimes verifying my previous assumptions, sometimes encouraging me to change them.

Even resources which, in my opinion, are simply inaccurate are sometimes useful: these can give valuable insights into why some people or groups believe what they do.

In short, It is my opinion that some of the resources in this blogroll are neither accurate, nor unbiased. I do, however, believe that they are useful in understanding the War on Terror, the many versions of Islam, terrorism, and related topics.