Southern Weekend on “Secret” Organic Food Supplies for Government Departments

It’s no secret that food safety is a huge problem in China right now. And while it may be a “secret”, it’s really no secret that the government gets its food from walled-off supply compounds where guaranteed organic produce is grown and shipped several times per week to the relevant departments. Perhaps in light of the recent high-profile food disasters, though, the government is feeling a little touchy, because this investigative report by Southern Weekend reporters was quickly deleted from their website. Luckily, Baidu cache has preserved a copy (at least for now). (h/t to Twitter users BendiLaowai, Kinablog and Vocui for the story and above links).

Also via BendiLaowai, a poignant reminder of the kind of food quality problems that exist for regular folks. Melamine milk parent Zhao Lianhai recently tweeted this message about another parent’s child who is still suffering from the contaminated milk scandal that covered the front pages several years ago:

“Zhou Xiong’s child Zhou Yizhe’s situation is very bad, one of the kidneys has already shriveled to the point that it’s totally gone, and the other required surgery, so the child is now living, but in pain. The kid’s future is also very unclear, I invite more people to pay attention to their case and to help out.”

What follows is a partial and very quick-and-dirty translation of the Southern Weekend article mentioned above. If I get time later, I will try to fill in more. Check the original Chinese when in doubt; as I said, I had to do a pretty rushed job on this one.

Translation

Two meter walls and iron railings on four sides, five PSB officers standing guard…if locals hadn’t informed us, it would have been very difficult to find this place, called the “big customs shack,” ((“海关大棚” any ideas on a better way to translate this?)) and it would have been even harder to figure out that it was a special storehouse of vegetables for Beijing Customs [officials]. The full name of the “big customs shack” is “Beijing Customs Vegetable Base and Countryside Social Club.” It covers over 200 mu of land in Beijing’s Shunyi district.

Insiders said that the base has been working with Beijing Customs for more than ten years, and that vegetables from here are only provided to Beijing Customs. Every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday a truck from Beijing Customs comes and takes away produce. Each load consists of at least 1000 jin of vegetables. The “big customs shack” is only one of many bases that provide the government with a special supply of food, and according to what a Southern Weekend reporter has learned, Customs isn’t the only department with a base in Beijing’s Shunyi District. Provincial-level governments across the country [also] have their own special food suppliers.

These special food products can be called truly “green” ((i.e. organic)) food, and their “safety” is paramount. On May 1, 2011, a Southern Weekend reporter penetrated the tight security of the “big customs shack”.

Entering the door and passing by some flower beds, you can see a reception area that looks exactly like a villa from the outside. Glass windows reach down to the ground, and a fish pond sits nearby. Green surrounds it on every side, and peach and pear trees are already ripe with fruit.

Inside the base, 64 rows of vegetable shacks are neatly arranged. By the door of each shack is a room for one worker, furnished with a simple bed and a stool. On the wall is a poster that reads: “Use safe intervals in the application of pesticides to produce vegetables.”

Between the two large shed groupings to the east and west, there is a drainage ditch that runs north-south and a path for freight trucks to pass through for shipping the vegetables. Aside from a few workers from the Northeast, the rest of the workers at the base are all local. Generally, one worker tends to four sheds and if they’re not there, the doors to the sheds are locked.

In the industry, it is frequently said that farmers don’t eat the crops they grow because the crops are grown using pesticides and chemical fertilizers. But the workers at the “big customs shack” slap their chests and guarantee, there’s definitely no problem [eating these vegetables], “we grew them all ourselves so relax!”

The Southern Weekend reporter saw “big customs shack workers picking cucumbers and eating them without washing them, or even disposing of the burrs, they just bit right in. ((This may be somewhat inaccurate as I know nothing about growing cucumbers; in any event the point here is that the workers were eating vegetables straight out of the ground without worrying about washing off any chemicals.))

To prevent chemical contamination, nearly all of the fertilizer [at the base] is organic fertilizer, the excrement of chickens, pigs, cows, and sheep. Even when pesticides are used, they are organic pesticides […] “What we plant are all green, environmentally harmless vegetables,” a person at the base told the Southern Weekend reporter. These vegetables include cucumbers, eggplant, tomatoes, winter squash, string beans, cabbage, spinach, Chinese cabbage, and other common greens. “Whatever we plant, they (Beijing Customs officials) want.”

Special food supplies: Not just in Beijing.

Actually, the “big customs shack” is just one example of a special food supply [for the government]. These supply stores are not just in Beijing, and they aren’t just for fruits and vegetables, either.

One method for maintaining a special supply of food is that some departments own a special plot of land, and all the crops grown in this area are used in the dining areas of the government departments. A scholar who wished to remain anonymous told Southern Weekend that two years ago when he was eating a meal at the Shaanxi Supreme Court’s dining area, he was told by someone in the industry that the Court had its own official farm thirty kilometers outside of Xi’an, in Hu County. The farm had special managers who guaranteed that all the fruits and vegetables were completely free of contaminants and safe to eat.

[…]

Comments

The article continues with a number of other specific examples, a brief investigation into the history of special food supplies in the PRC, and a discussion of how suppliers of these special food centers can use that status to ensure their products sell for higher prices in the regular food markets, as well.

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0 thoughts on “Southern Weekend on “Secret” Organic Food Supplies for Government Departments”

  1. Maybe it is time for some internet democracy:

    Poll question: Should Pugster be declared a Serial Posting Pest with domestic issues?

    Since he does little to illuminate any thread.

    Like

  2. @KT – I’ve never backed anyone getting banned from a forum, but I’d sure appreciate it if Putzster would at least either discuss the post or quit trolling. And he still hasn’t said why he comes here.

    Like

  3. Inequality seems to be the common theme in China. Powerful people in Beijing want safer food so they task underlings to go obtain organic foods elsewhere. So what can people do about it? Opening up high end organic supermarkets like Whole Foods and make better food available for everyone? I can only imaging when Whole Foods being opened up in China, its customers would certainly not be the average local since they can’t afford organic foods. Heck most Americans can’t even afford food from Whole Foods all the time.

    The problem with China, or any populated third world nation is rather simple: There are too many people and not enough resources. IMO the government should just tax the shiznit of the uber rich and live up to its true communist name.

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  4. “I’ve never backed anyone getting banned from a forum, but I’d sure appreciate it if Putzster would at least either discuss the post or quit trolling.”

    And I don’t see the value this particular post at all, other than yet another attempt at personal attacks.

    The best way to address trolling is to simply ignore. FORAP you and the other anti-China folks certainly know this rule yet you guys have personally attacked pugster in just about every single thread. If anything you guys have broken the no-personal attack rule far more than pugster for not staying on topic.

    KT mocked me somewhere and wrote that I am predictable. Let’s be honest for a moment here, most of the posts by the anti-China folks and the China lovers have the same general content. This is because people like FORAP and Pugster politicize EVERYTHING. If you have a negative piece about China, the anti-China folks will go on and bash the Chinese government while Pugster will go and bash America. If some good news comes out of China on these blogs (rare), the anti-China people will still bash the Chinese government for not doing enough, and pugster will praise China and bash America. It’s like you guys are incapable of simply taking a piece of news, digest it, and let it go without somehow trying to use that piece of news to reaffirm your political ideology.

    Ultimately, most people here are not Chinese citizens. Do you see Chinese people sitting around bitching about America’s domestic policies all the time? Of course not, this because 1) they are not US citizens and have little hope to influence US policy even if they tried 2) Most are not pompous enough to think they know what is the best for America 3) They have better things to do.

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  5. “The fact that this commenter has been living in China for 5 years and C Custer might have been even longer, and both of them have not been poisoned to death yet, I say Chinese food is quite safe. ”

    Are there any REAL health professional here? Maybe we can go into detail about China’s more recent trend in the medical area such as cancer rates, poison deaths, and life expectancy. My thinking is that if the food quality issue is really severe in China, metrics such as cancer rates should see sharp increases even if the technology has gotten better to cure cancer.

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  6. @ LOLZ: What are you talking about? Chinese people talk about US policy ALL THE TIME. Literally all the time. For example, the Bin Laden execution…did that have anything to do with China? No, it was a matter of US (and Pakistan) policy. Yet it was the main topic of conversation on Weibo (and in many other places) for several days.

    And yes, I know you said “domestic policy”. But by Chinese standards, the Iraq war and the Bin Laden assassination are US domestic policy, just like the Korean war, war with Vietnam, border conflicts with India, conflicts with Taiwan, etc. are all Chinese “domestic” issues.

    Chinese people talk about US policy constantly. I can’t tell you how many times I listened to Chinese people lecture me about the evils of President Bush (who I didn’t like either…) back when he was president. If you really think Chinese people only talk about Chinese domestic issues and don’t spend their time talking about “lesser” issues like US policy, you are absolutely fooling yourself. It’s actually completely inevitable; any “superpower” is going to attract attention and discussion even from people who aren’t citizens, especially when those people live in-country.

    And just as Chinese have the right to discuss US policy, we have the right to discuss Chinese policy. Most of us aren’t citizens, sure, but (personally) I live in China, I pay taxes to China’s government (which most Chinese citizens actually don’t do), I have family that are Chinese citizens, and my profession is pretty tightly connection to what happens in China. I don’t think any of us think we’re going to change anything that happens in China, really, but we’ve sure as hell got a vested interest in the future here and I’ll be damned if I’m not allowed to talk about my interests just because my passport is blue instead of red.

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  7. @ pug_ster: What part of this is “sensationalist”? What part of it mentions “babies” (hint: the only time the word “babies” appears on this page is in your comment). Yes, I included a quote from Zhao Lianhai to contrast with the Southern Weekend story, but how is that sensationalist? Because I point out that regular people are suffering from food safety issues while government officials eat from pristine organic farms?

    THAT ISN’T SENSATIONALIST, IT IS WHAT IS ACTUALLY HAPPENING.

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  8. *Sigh*

    After spending some time reading the Southern weekend article, I think this article is totally taken out of context. The crux of the article wasn’t even talking about government officials hoarding the pesticide food at all, rather what are they doing in these ‘pesticide free’ farms, and mentions nothing about the current issues with the ‘pesticide’ laden foods.

    First of all, the use of these farms aren’t a big secret. I recall that I saw a video few years ago that the vegetables and meat from these farms was given to the athletes in the Beijing Olympics at 2008. This kind of “secret” farms was also used for other special occasions involving foreign guests or athletes. Perhaps that is why the government ‘hoarded’ the stuff grew from the farms. Seriously, Charles, translate the whole article and let everybody think for themselves about this.

    I don’t think this article should be censored and I thought it was an excellent read. I think the article was censored (and my criticism of this article) was because the reporters did not get an official response from the government of the existence of these “secret” farms to try to get the other side of the story.

    The problem with the Timesonline article is that the author is a total moron and quoted it out of context from one person in Southern Weekend article. Again, the person didn’t mention anything about babies. The Timesonline article is nothing but sensationalistic propaganda which has little in common with the southern Weekend article. The other Western idiots in the twitter echo chamber totally brought the Timesonline propaganda without checking out original story about the Southern Weekend. Meanwhile, those twitter idiots as well as half of the people here are convinced that the Chinese government deliberately withheld organic food from its citizens.

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  9. “And yes, I know you said “domestic policy”. But by Chinese standards, the Iraq war and the Bin Laden assassination are US domestic policy, just like the Korean war, war with Vietnam, border conflicts with India, conflicts with Taiwan, etc. are all Chinese “domestic” issues. ”

    Yes, I purposely used the word “domestic policy”. I can see Chinese whine about issues where China share a conflict with the US in terms of foreign policy, such as Iran, Iraq (strategic oil resources), terrorism, Korean (military strategic) or Taiwan (for obvious reasons). Of course they would complain that has something to do with them. What I don’t see are many Chinese people going into details complaining about US’ currency, housing bubble, justice system, income inequality, education, racism, etc. I also don’t see all that often Chinese (more like Asians in general) pretending they know what’s the best for the American people.

    “I’ll be damned if I’m not allowed to talk about my interests just because my passport is blue instead of red.”

    I don’t think I’ve indicated in anyway what a person is allowed or not allowed to do. My comment was directed towards the suggestion that if people are not Chinese citizens living in China, they should not join discussions about China and take a certain ideological position.

    What I see are a whole bunch of anti-China people (not you custer you are a more of a realist) gaining up on a Chinese defender, and as a fellow China defender I don’t see why I shouldn’t help :).

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  10. I just noticed the date of the Timesonline article you linked was written at 2008. Anyways, but that Southern Weekend article was totally taken out of context.

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  11. From what I read his comment, lolz is saying Chinese people in America (as guests, like you, a guest of China) do not sit around bitching about American domestic policy all the time. They have better things to do.

    By the way, here in America, we have the best food in the world, organic or not, clear water and air, two-party system, the most advanced democracy, absolutely no corruption, full human rights (all kinds, you name it) …… I heard President Clinton said numerous times this is the greatest country on earth (something like that). Not sure why any non-Chinese would want to live in China instead. Oh, wait… for those who love filming missing children, we have plenty of that, too. You won’t miss anything.

    Like

  12. “Yes, it’s okay for a Chinese national to write an article critical of a government policy in the Southern Weekend, but as soon as a foreigner reads it, does a few clickity-clicks on their computer machine, and passes it on for others to read, it’s sensationalizing the issue. Because drawing attention to an issue that doesn’t affect you personally is sensationalizing it, of course. ”

    Yes, something like that. I don’t think Chinese people are exclusive for not wanting what they consider “outsiders” to meddle with their own business.

    Also, I think there are major differences between laowais who like to forward variety of news/experiences regarding China, and those who exclusively and actively seek negative news items which would only suit their existing prejudices political and racial. Just as there are major differences between laowais who criticize China because they actually give a damn about Chinese people, and those who criticize China because they want to feel superior towards the locals. My guess is that a lot of the Chinese folks get very defensive because they think most laowais would fall into the later category. Whereas many laowais would probably like to think that they fall into the earlier category.

    Like

  13. “By the way, here in America, we have the best food in the world, organic or not, clear water and air, two-party system, the most advanced democracy, absolutely no corruption, full human rights (all kinds, you name it) …… I heard President Clinton said numerous times this is the greatest country on earth (something like that). Not sure why any non-Chinese would want to live in China instead. Oh, wait… for those who love filming missing children, we have plenty of that, too. You won’t miss anything.”

    I agree with all of TC’s comments on this thread wholeheartedly!

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  14. hey lolz, do you actually think anyone on this site is anti-china? if the government is failing in its duty to protect the citizens and we say ‘man that’s crummy of the government,’ that’s anti-china? really?

    i don’t know what your definition of china is- maybe you really think of china as a bunch of old rich dudes sitting around in beijing. i tend to think of china more in terms of the rest of the country- that’s the china i love. if you’re going to call me anti-china because i hate seeing them poisoned, censored, and disappeared by politicians whose ruling philosophy comes down to ‘fuck you, got mine’ then i don’t even know what to say. you’ve either got a seriously authoritarian mindset, or you’re actually calling people anti-china because you can’t stand to see a foreigner get critical- regardless of whether they’re right or wrong.

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  15. LOLZ,

    Providing Chinese don’t actually comment on US domestic policy (which in my experience they in fact do), it still doesn’t invalidate external criticism of China from the outside or vice versa.

    If there’s one thing I’m bloody tired of its how often I hear the “you’re not Chinese you cannot ever understand China” rhetoric (BTW I’m half Chinese, so its even more irritating).

    China is an integral part of the global economy, wether you’re in China or not you still have daily dealings with China, wether that be through business or decisions about what socks you buy you’re playing a part in China’s internal development. Today decisions about how we spend money has become more politically and socially influential than voting, even in the most democratic countries. Its essential that everyone is aware of this – just because you don’t live in a particular country doesn’t mean your lifestyle and so on doesn’t influence its internal affairs and certainly doesn’t mean you don’t have a valid opinion.

    Regarding the Pugster stuff, simmer down and just ignore yeah?

    Back to topic, recently I’ve been living in HK and the food is not only cheaper but much better and more healthy than what I had in Beijing, both in the supermarkets and the restaurants. Whats up with that?

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  16. “hey lolz, do you actually think anyone on this site is anti-china?”

    Yes, some clearly are although they probably don’t see it this way. The truth is that Chinese government does some good things and some bad things. If I were to look at something only in the negative light all the time, and refuse the acknowledge the good, should I at least be honest to myself simply declare my clear stance? To put it more simply, if I were to only say good things about the Chinese government people would be calling me names too wouldn’t they? If I were to bash America all the time shouldn’t I be properly labeled “anti-America”? I don’t think criticizing China makes one anti-China. However, if I were only to criticize China or behaving like a closet bigot against the Chinese people why shouldn’t I be called anti-China?

    “you’ve either got a seriously authoritarian mindset, or you’re actually calling people anti-china because you can’t stand to see a foreigner get critical- regardless of whether they’re right or wrong.”

    I call people anti-China if I think they are anti-China, typically from comment history. That’s just my opinion. I wouldn’t get all that upset if you called me pro-China, China-defender, paid Chinese agent, ahole, or whatever. Why do people get all defensive when I call them anti-China?

    As for authoritarian mindset, I don’t think there is a single best type of government. To me what makes a good government is one which could demonstrate quantifiable improvements for the majority over a period of time.

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  17. LOLZ. Well, I’ve seen a four year longtitudinal record of presentations for serious stomach ulcers which presented at Longhua (near Shenzhen) Hospital recorded by the Deputy Director, who assured me that this local incidence was well above global norms after all the statistical stuff had been undertaken. Not sure if she went onto publish in the New England Journal of Medicine as she planned. Does this help you in realigning the discussion????

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  18. “Providing Chinese don’t actually comment on US domestic policy (which in my experience they in fact do), it still doesn’t invalidate external criticism of China from the outside or vice versa. ”

    Hmm, if a Chinese national in the US is complaining about say America all the time, I would call that person anti-American and ask him why would he stay in the US if he sees nothing good about it. I have actually asked someone this question before.

    I don’t think many of the criticisms toward China here are inaccurate. How often do you see me arguing otherwise? However, if someone I don’t know comes up to me and tries to give me unsolicited advises on how to run my own home, I would probably be offended even if I agree with what the guy says. I think this is the reason why a lot of the Chinese people are against foreign criticism while okay with criticisms coming from locals. Is this concept difficult to understand?

    “If there’s one thing I’m bloody tired of its how often I hear the “you’re not Chinese you cannot ever understand China” rhetoric (BTW I’m half Chinese, so its even more irritating). ”

    Why would you be upset, and what makes you think that non-Chinese would understand China better than Chinese themselves? For example, I have lived in China for over a dozen years at a time when it was a complete shithole, even in Shanghai. Comparing that with the China today of course I see that things are getting way better. My friends and relatives who I grew up with now have their own houses and cars, things which we never dreamed of growing up. Now, many of the expats on the other hand think China is a shithole because comparing to the places which they came from, China is lacking. If I tell these people their perspectives about China doesn’t mirror with most of the Chinese and that they don’t understand China, would I be wrong?

    “I’ve been living in HK and the food is not only cheaper but much better and more healthy than what I had in Beijing, both in the supermarkets and the restaurants. Whats up with that?”

    Are you serious with this question? HK has enjoyed a higher standard of living for decades and the lives of people there are pretty much on par with any first world nation. Over time the processes (including making food) there have been adapted to meet these higher expectations. China has only started to see massive improvements since the early 90s. Even in late 80s, people had simple meat like chicken only during special occasions. If you have lived the life of a 3rd world poor, counting calories/nutrition is probably the last thing which is going most people’s heads. On the other hand, food prices are mostly determined by local supply/demand, unless the government intervenes.

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  19. “I’ve seen a four year longtitudinal record of presentations for serious stomach ulcers which presented at Longhua (near Shenzhen) Hospital recorded by the Deputy Director, who assured me that this local incidence was well above global norms after all the statistical stuff had been undertaken. ”

    Do you remember if the graph was trending significantly in a direction? Cancer is the leading cause of death in China so I don’t think it matters to compare China’s stomach ulcer rate with the global figure (it will definitely be higher) as it is to figure out whether the rate is trending up/downward historically. Provided that food quality is a major reason behind stomch ulcers, we are trying to figure out whether the food quality is improving or decreasing just in China right? Also I think it would be interesting to compare this rate for different cities/providences, since it’s implied in the article that wealthy people from Beijing are buying up quality food from poorer areas.

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  20. “If I were to bash America all the time shouldn’t I be properly labeled “anti-America”?”

    Actually no, I don’t think so. Well, not solely based on what you’ve said there. It depends- are you criticizing the american people? american culture? american lifestyles? the american government, or economy? if yes to all of the above, then you might be an anti-american.

    but if you’re critiquing the american government and american politics, i don’t think that makes you even slightly anti-american. hell, americans love to go on about how awful washington is, does that make all of us anti-american? no?

    “I don’t think criticizing China makes one anti-China. However, if I were only to criticize China or behaving like a closet bigot against the Chinese people why shouldn’t I be called anti-China?”

    say what you will, i don’t think i’ve ever seen anyone here posting anything bigoted about the chinese people. as far as i’ve ever seen, this site is full of people talking about the chinese government- mostly from the perspective of people who live here and work here and have chinese friends and coworkers and maybe even spouses. calling someone like that “anti-china” for the kinds of comments that come up in these posts just seems really misguided to me.

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  21. @ pug_ster: What is “out of context” about it? How is that even possible? It is an incomplete translation, yes; I translated as much as I had time for. But it’s not like I was picking and choosing what to translate; I just started from the beginning and stopped when I ran out of time. I don’t think there’s anything in the rest of the article that casts what I have translated in any significantly different light. If there is, feel free to translate it yourself, I don’t think it’s really worth my time to go back and finish it at this point.

    @ lolz: I don’t agree at all that foreigners criticize China because it doesn’t compare (economically) to the places that we came from. In fact, I think most expats don’t give a crap about that. Everyone knows China has gotten much better economically — many of us have experienced it personally — and we all have friends who came from poor backgrounds and are now making tons of money and elevating their whole family’s quality of life (expats also have Chinese friends, you know!)

    Additionally, not all of us came from wealthy foreign countries, and those of us who did didn’t all grow up surrounded by that. I spent much of my childhood in a town that, for all intents and purposes, could be compared with an average Chinese rural village. Exactly the same? Of course not. But it’s not like expats complain about the Chinese government because they get to China and feel China is too underdeveloped and poor. Beijing is by far the most developed city I’ve ever lived in, in fact.

    In fact, I think what expats complain about re: China (myself included) most often are the things that do affect us directly, and they’re rarely economic (with the exception of inflation, but most expats aren’t as poor as me so they don’t care too much about that). There are plenty of things we love about China too, but most of us come from a culture where there’s no real impetus for us to share any of that, and in fact, sharing it just seems weird and self-centered and (given what we read in the domestic media) also totally redundant.

    There seems to be some myth, in both the US and in China, that there are people who move to countries they hate so they can complain about them (according to the “love it or leave it” crowd of xenophobes in both countries). No. Aside from people who are literally crazy, everyone has some reason to be living where they are. And no, that reason isn’t that there’s a massive “Western” conspiracy to destabilize China by sending a few whiny expats to complain on Twitter.

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  22. also @ lolz:

    And no, the “we accept criticism from our own but not from outsiders” is not a difficult mentality to understand. It is, however, deeply arrogant and pretty stupid, which might explain why it’s also such a popular mentality for Americans to have when they speak with foreigners about the US…

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  23. LOLZ

    I often hear on this forum the term “ani-China” or anti-US (rarely anti everything else since most of the discussion here is victimized by the false East West dichotomy). I’ve yet to actually understand what that means to say that, but I think thats a matter if presumption of it being an obvious matter rather than anything lacking on my part. Take for example Ai Wei Wei, he’s critical of China’s government and wants improvements (if you happen to take his side, which you might well not), some call him a patriot (i.e. pro-China) and others would call him anti-China, but thats entirely dependent on your viewpoint based on a huge variety of factors – namely political stance concerning Chinese domestic policy. Considering this the term “anti-China” is not useful at all to our discussions here which are (ideally) specific concerning whattever topic is on the table. In other bantering words anti- or pro- China presupposes an outcome of a political argument which never took place.

    “Why would you be upset, and what makes you think that non-Chinese would understand China better than Chinese themselves?”

    Isn’t this dependent on the individual rather than nationality?

    It goes without saying its good to get external opinions too. Can you imagine writing some kind of thesis on some arcane topic and then rejecting the opinions of others based off the fact they are less learned on that topic than you are? I’m not saying that all opinion is equally valid, but I am saying that dismissing opinion based off their nationality is at best ignorant and at worst racist.

    “On the other hand, food prices are mostly determined by local supply/demand, unless the government intervenes.”

    Of course I’m serious, and judging by your answer you don’t have a solid idea either. Inflation has increased the price of food as of late, before that food definitely was cheaper in China, though still of lower quality. So now we’re seeing huge government subsidies to offset the inflation of foodstuffs. What I’m wondering is if the surge in price and reduction in food quality is partly due to the movement of laborers from food production to construction and so on – amongst other things. Fact is, I have no idea.

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  24. “It is, however, deeply arrogant and pretty stupid, which might explain why it’s also such a popular mentality for Americans to have when they speak with foreigners about the US…”

    Well, you can say that Chinese are alot like Americans, deep insecurities and all. But I have written before that I think people in general behave in similar ways. In this forum whenever I criticize, let it be certain type of behaviors, or countries, people do get defensive. I would like to think some people here are liberals in that they are certainly capable of criticizing an aspect of their own. But they still show the same type of defensive mechanism which the Chinese defenders put up. IMO thus this type of behavior is only natural.

    The whole anti-China label, that ultimately has more to do with me and my take on other people based mostly upon their posting history. Apparently this has struck a nerve for many? Well, people have different opinions and that’s what makes this forum fun. If I didn’t call people anti-China they wouldn’t write hundreds of words defending themselves would they? Years ago I went through a similar process when getting accused of being “chinese propagandist/agent/50 cent” on various forums. I didn’t think of myself as one but people insisted. Oh well.

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  25. “I am saying that dismissing opinion based off their nationality is at best ignorant and at worst racist. ”

    Do people really think this way? If so then how would you explain the popular notion on the China related blogs that Chinese are somehow more ignorant of their own country’s conditions due to government censorship? That their opinions of the state of their own nation is not valid because they have been “brainwashed” by Chinese propaganda? I can’t count how many times actual Chinese people’s view points are being dismissed by expats who think their assessment of China should somehow be more valued than actual Chinese living in China all their lives.

    When people say stuff like “you don’t understand China because you are not Chinese” I think they are assuming based off your nationality the length of time you have spent in China, your experience in other word. You can be a foreign national who have lived in China all your life. In that case of course your understanding of China would be on the same level as other Chinese. However, how many expats have lived in China for more than 20, or 30 years?

    “Inflation has increased the price of food as of late, before that food definitely was cheaper in China, though still of lower quality. So now we’re seeing huge government subsidies to offset the inflation of foodstuffs. ”

    Food quality have a direct correlation with standard of living. The Japanese produces IMO are the highest quality in the world, but it wasn’t always like that. My Japanese wife told me that her parents generation after WWII had terrible time growing up. The Japanese government went through teaching people basic concepts such as proper etiquette, hygiene, etc. in the 60s/70s. That kind of stuff has only started going on in Mainland China today. It took people decades to change their habits and their expectations. Technologies and processes to help with this which have been available and practiced in developed nations for decades have only be introduced to China within the last two decades. Why should anyone to expect the food quality in any developing country to be on par with developed nations for this reason? Now, if your argument is that the Chinese authorities which is responsible for food inspection needs to be more experienced and develop better processes then I totally agree. The lack of effective governing policies would explain the reductions in food quality although I would need to read more to be convinced that the overall the food quality in China has actually been worse than before.

    Finally, it has been long time since I took economics but I think food pricing has to do with local supply/demand, with a dash of government regulations and taxes. There is inflation in China because of a growing middle class who want to consume more while existing production of food does not meet the demand. In the short term this calls for imports. However, pegging the Chinese currency means higher prices for imports. Chinese yuan is artificially undervalued and this would further attributes to inflation. On the long term the Chinese government have to invest in technologies to improve production.

    “What I’m wondering is if the surge in price and reduction in food quality is partly due to the movement of laborers from food production to construction and so on”

    Custer had an article on farmers moving into the cities to live better, but what I don’t know is the efficiency of large sized farms. This happened in the US as well, farmers moving to other industries. However large food corporations can easily offset this by leveraging economics of scale and using better technologies. Government assistance subsidies plays a big part but that mostly go to big corporations rather than small independent farmers (definitely in the US and likely in China too).

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  26. “Do people really think this way? If so then how would you explain the popular notion on the China related blogs that Chinese are somehow more ignorant of their own country’s conditions due to government censorship? That their opinions of the state of their own nation is not valid because they have been “brainwashed” by Chinese propaganda? I can’t count how many times actual Chinese people’s view points are being dismissed by expats who think their assessment of China should somehow be more valued than actual Chinese living in China all their lives.”

    Yes people really do think that way, and if you go back to your earlier post you were clearly defending that line of thought. I agree that the point of view works both ways too, and Chinese opinion also gets dismissed because of nationality, which is also bad. I’m not going to spend time on talking about it because you’ve done a subtle 180 on this going from “of course its valid”, to “does that really happen?”, and now as I’ve copied and pasted below you’re talking about opinion being valid or invalid based on the individual, rather than the nationality.

    “When people say stuff like “you don’t understand China because you are not Chinese” I think they are assuming based off your nationality the length of time you have spent in China, your experience in other word. You can be a foreign national who have lived in China all your life. In that case of course your understanding of China would be on the same level as other Chinese. However, how many expats have lived in China for more than 20, or 30 years?”

    First of all making presumptions off nationality is what is commonly termed of as racism, secondly thats a very flawed statement. Time spent in China is clearly useful in understanding the country, but spending long periods of time in China obviously doesn’t make you an expert, just as not spending time in China makes you an sino-retard. I’m not suggesting that foreigners become missionaries of common sense, but alternative points of view are clearly a good thing and if they are wrong should be (as I said earlier) dismissed with logical argument, not instantaneously filed in the “foreigner opinion” box.

    “To prejudge other men’s notions before we have looked into them is not to show their darkness but to put out our own eyes.” – no?

    “Chinese yuan is artificially undervalued and this would further attributes to inflation.”

    I hate to cross topics, but that judgement was made by an American who has never lived in China, perhaps you should dismiss it?

    Out of personal experience food in China is worse than it was when I visited in the late 90s/early 00s, but I’m really not sure about this since food was cheaper then so I could afford a higher standard of food.

    What I’m wondering is if those migrant workers will return back to their localities and get back into farming since inflation and income disparity has started to squeeze them out of the cities.

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  27. @Custer

    “There are plenty of things we love about China too, but most of us come from a culture where there’s no real impetus for us to share any of that, and in fact, sharing it just seems weird and self-centered and (given what we read in the domestic media) also totally redundant.”

    Agreed. Blogs which run a lot of “I’m having such a great time” posts always seem to have a “hey, look at me” feel to them. I had a good time in China, I won’t deny it, but who wants to hear about my various jaunts? There is little to discuss about them.

    There is, however, much to discuss about the national situation of a country, particularly China, and whilst this has been great in terms of economic growth, in other areas things are not so rosy. There’s no reason why there should be an even balance between positive and negative reporting if the true situation is not evenly balanced.

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  28. This article describes one of the issues of inequality in China, but frames the whole issue into the common China-bashing theme of poor Chinese people-vs-the privileged government officials.

    In the U.S., rich people buy and eat more organic foods than poor people. The super-riches even get customized medical care. Rich people tend to live in safer areas, while poor people are more likely to be killed in their own neighborhood. There is marked differences in life expectancy, infant mortality etc among different socioeconomic stripes. Yet I rarely see anyone crying unfair for the poor people, or advocating organization of the poor people to protest against the super-rich, and more importantly, against the current political system in America.

    Obviously, China is again viewed through different lens here.

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  29. JVO,

    I think you will have a better chance finding US CENTCOM sock puppets than me as a ‘Online Opinion Manipulator.’ Besides, my ip address don’t trace back to Shanghai.

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  30. “First of all making presumptions off nationality is what is commonly termed of as racism,”

    Brightgrey, the term racism refers to the belief that a group of people would exhibit certain characters only and entirely due to their race. For example, if I say that Chinese are smarter because they are Chinese, that jews are greedier because they are jews, that would be considered racist. When I read the claim that Chinese are more prone to schadenfreude because they are Chinese I viewed it as racist, which is why I flamed the person who made that statement. I suggest you to look it the meaning of the word before you throw around terms which clearly don’t apply to the situation.

    That said, the term you are probably looking for is biased, or prejudiced.

    “Time spent in China is clearly useful in understanding the country, but spending long periods of time in China obviously doesn’t make you an expert, just as not spending time in China makes you an sino-retard.”

    True, but this statement itself doesn’t qualify you as being any more of an expert of China than the Chinese folks who think you are not. As a whole I do believe that people who have lived in China longer do have better idea about China, just as as I believe that Americans who live in America have a better idea about America than those who do not. Do you think that those who are not of mixed race would know more about what’s it like being of a mixed race than someone who is actually of mixed race?

    Of course I think there are plenty of exceptions to this. Going back to your story though, the missing detail here is WHY do they think you don’t understand China. Have you ask them why this is? If their sole reason for it is because you are not Chinese, then clearly they are in the wrong. However, if the reason why they think you don’t understand China is because your views of the situation in China clearly conflict theirs, then maybe they are right. At the risk of breaking off from the main topic of the thread even more though, I think maybe you can talk about it some other time.

    “but that judgement was made by an American who has never lived in China, perhaps you should dismiss it”

    I don’t get the point of this statement. If you want to talk about economics then state your views. Your initial question indicated that you have a genuine interest in finding out why Chinese foods cost more and are of lower quality. When I replied with with what I think a logical answer you went on use my statement to attack someone else. That’s lame. If you disagree with me then post something logical to refute it.

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