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A Lower Domestic Standard for Consumption Goods?

For a long period of time, although merchandize made in China has frequently been recalled in other countries, China’s domestic merchandize has seldom been recalled due to poor quality. Not only does China lack the disciplinary mechanism to recall poor quality products, except drugs; China’s merchandize for domestic consumption usually has a safety standard that is lower than international norms. The following is a translation of the report from Voice of America. [1]

The Quality of Merchandize for Domestic Consumption in China is Lower Than Exported Merchandize

By Sun Feng
January 9, 2008

Although we have seen that outside of China, Chinese made products have frequently been recalled due to poor quality, China’s domestic merchandize seldom faces similar problems. Not only does China lack the disciplinary mechanism to recall poor quality products; China’s merchandize for domestic consumption usually has a safety standard that is lower than international norms.

In May and June of 2007, many countries announced the recall of tainted toothpaste made in China, because it contained the poisonous chemical diethylene glycol (DEG). The very same toothpaste has never been removed from China’s merchandize shelves.

In June of 2007, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration released a warning that toothpaste imported from China contained more than 4% DEG and warned the public not to use toothpaste made in China.

The General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine, an organization under China’s State Council, issued a public notice in July 2007 forbidding the use of DEG as a toothpaste ingredient, and banning its export. However, it did not ban the sale of toothpaste with DEG within China. To the contrary, the General Administration specified in this same public notice that toothpaste with less than 15.6% DEG would not harm anyone’s health, and that "consumers do not need to worry too much about their health if they have used this type of toothpaste."

For a long period of time, although merchandize made in China has frequently been recalled in other countries, China’s domestic merchandize has seldom been recalled due to poor quality. Not only does China lack the disciplinary mechanism to recall poor quality products, except drugs; China’s merchandize for domestic consumption usually has a safety standard that is lower than international norms.

Take the auto safety evaluation system as an example. The head-to-head collision standard in the U.S. is 56 kilometers per hour, while it is 50 kilometers per hour in China.
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Gao Hongbing, the deputy minister of China’s Ministry of Agriculture admitted on Tuesday that China lagged behind other countries in setting up product standards and that there is still a gap between China and developed countries in this respect.

Wang Hai is the host of Wang Hai Hotline, a "consumers’ rights protection" group. According to Wang, establishing overly low standards for domestic merchandize occurred because no representatives for consumers were present when the standards were drafted.

"Why can’t China’s quality standards be improved?" asked Wang. "The key is, first of all, the standards were set by the leaders of the particular enterprise, with little or no involvement from the general public. In other words, the consumers’ rights protection group has no way to participate in the decision making process. In addition, we have virtually no on to speak for consumer’s interests. In China, there is no organization that truly represents consumers’ interests. The Consumers’ Association is a state-run organization. It can only serve a very limited purpose in protecting consumers. We also lack a third-party inspection organization. The inspection organizations we have are all state-run institutes."

According to Wang Hai, in the battle between consumers and entrepreneurs, the entrepreneurs have considerable resources while consumers have none. The government is usually overly lenient with enterprises, for the sake of economic development. In addition, many of the enterprises are either state-run companies or have government backing. All media outlets are state-run mouthpieces. They do not dare to offend their major advertising clients either.

However, the legal consultant of the Consumer Association of Beijing Qiu Baochang has a different point of view. According to Qiu, it is an inappropriate generalization to say the standards for domestic merchandize are lower and are higher for exports.

"Inside China we have our own standard," Qiu said. "As long as we meet this standard, we do not have any problem selling the product inside China. Of course it remains a question whether China’s domestic standard is the same as those of other countries. Can they ever be exactly the same? I don’t think it is possible to unify the standard, because there are issues like development of the market economy and scientific development."

He also said when drafting the standards the authorities had taken protecting consumers’ interests into consideration.

According to Mao Shoulong, director of the Department of Administration and Management at People’s University, many agricultural produces intended for export are refined goods. They are different from the products for domestic consumption. Although it’s a common belief that the standards for goods for domestic consumption should be improved, he believes that implementing those new standards will encounter many problems.
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Mao said, "For example, many of the companies may be forced out of business. This year, the price of food itself is rising sharply. If we factor in the improvement of the processing technique and other investments, as well as training personnel and the management team, the cost will be high. It will bring a huge change to the market. If we cannot adjust to the change, the price may go up 100%, not just the 5%, 10% or 30% that we are experiencing right now. It may bring about some social problems."

Long Yongtu, the current general secretary of the Boao Forum for Asia, was the leading negotiation representative when China joined the WTO. Long also shared his opinion on this subject. He believed there was no need to have two different standards. "We had no other choice when China was a poor country." Long added, "Now things have changed. Chinese civilians’ well-being is as important as that of foreigners."

Endnote
[1] Voice of America, January 9, 2008
http://www.voanews.com/chinese/w2008-01-09-voa39.cfm

Human Rights Defender Sentenced to 4 Years’ Imprisonment

On February 5, Hangzhou-based writer Lü Gengsong was sentenced to four years for "inciting subversion of state power" based on 19 articles that he posted online. His political rights will subsequently be deprived for one year. Lü’s hearing lasted for 15 minutes and only his immediate family and two friends were allowed to attend. Outside the courthouse, more than 20 people came to voice their support, one was detained. According to Radio Free Asia, his wife said that he plans to appeal.

Source: Radio Free Asia, February 05, 2008
http://www.rfa.org/mandarin/shenrubaodao/2008/02/05/lugengsong/

China Developing Spaceplane That Can Bomb Any Target on Earth

Zhuang Fengan, a Chinese Aerospace expert, disclosed that China has been conducting research on spaceplane. Yan Liang aircraft stress testing base in Xian, a subsidiary of No. 1 Group of China Aviation Industry will carry out the final testing, which is expected to be completed before 2010.

The Global Times calls the U.S. developed spaceplane “sudden and swift; capable of bombing any target on earth.”

Source: Wenweipo, Hong Kong, February 6, 2008 http://www.peacehall.com/news/gb/army/2008/02/200802060815.shtml

Chinese New Year û Snow Storm Strands Millions

Because of heavy storms hitting the south and northwest regions of China since mid-January, millions of migrant workers have been stranded and unable to go home for Chinese New Year. In Guangzhou alone, 1.1 million out of 3.8 million sold train tickets were returned due to cancellations. The local labor security agency in Guangdong Province has issued an urgent notice to various levels of authorities asking that they persuade those who are stuck on the road to return to Guangdong. They are hoping to keep 65 percent of the migrant workers for the New Year.

Source: Xinhua, February 5, 2008
http://news.xinhuanet.com/newscenter/2008-02/05/content_7575411.htm

Party Leadership Calls for Emancipation of the Mind

In the past year, the four Chinese characters “jie fang si xiang” or” emancipation of the mind” has repeatedly appeared in important places on government documents. The media as well as the general public are still fumbling for the real reasons behind the use of these words. Here, we provide translated excerpts from two articles appearing in mainland media.

Nanfang Weekend, January 17, “Party think tank calls for ‘emancipation of mind’”[1]
“After the 17th National Congress of the Chinese Communist Party (NCCCP), party and administrative leadership at the provincial level have widely used this term. They include the new Shanghai party chief, Yu Zhengsheng, Chongqing party chief, Bo Xilai. The new party chief of Guangdong Province, Wang Yang, has drawn the most attention from media. Wang gave his famous talk in the southern province, calling for “a new round of emancipation of mind.”

If you think that use of this term is a regional phenomenon, you may be underestimating the size of the wave. While people are hotly debating Wang’s talk, Shi Zhihong, the deputy director of the CCP Central Committee’s Policy Research Department, published an article on January 5th in Jiefang Daily entitled ‘The Party’s 17th NCCCP and the New Emancipation of the Mind from a New Starting Point — A Discussion of Various Aspects of the 17th NCCCP Report after Continued Reflection.’

It came to the author’s attention that the 12,000-character-long article did not receive much attention from the media. However, this article has a deeper meaning, considering the influence of Jiefang Daily among all the party newspapers as well as the author’s own workplace.

The CCP Central Committee’s Policy Research Department has always been the ruling party’s think tank. It drafts all types of documents for the party’s central leadership. Wu Mingyu, a former deputy director of the Development and Research Center under the State Council, told the author that the Central Committee’s Policy Research Department “ought to record and understand the developments of high-level officials’ thoughts, integrate various research agencies’ reports, and send important pieces to party leadership.” For an article written by the deputy director of the Central Committee’s Policy Research Department, one cannot simply take it as personal opinions. The author Shi Zhihong also was publicly announced as one of the members participating in the drafting of the 17th NCCCP report read by Hu Jintao at the Congress.

As early as before the 17th NCCCP took place, the official Xinhua News Agency published an article entitled ‘Looking Forward to the 17th NCCCP: Standing at a New Historic Height and Raising the Sail of Emancipation of Mind.’ The article said, ‘Emancipation of the mind without hesitation … is a new test for us.’ In the 17th NCCCP report, it said that ‘Emancipation of the mind is a magic weapon for developing socialism with Chinese characteristics.’
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Shi’s article … added that ‘obviously, developing socialism with Chinese characteristics and continued emancipation of the mind is the main theme throughout the report.’

The article also said that, only around this ‘main theme,’ ‘one can truly understand the essence of the 17th NCCCP report, comprehend the mission of the party at this new historical point, and grasp the direction the party takes to continue on emancipation of the mind along the party’s new development and practices.’ The article added, ‘Therefore, emancipation of the mind ought to enter a new and higher realm.’”

People’s Forum on peopledaily.com.cn, “Why is emancipation of mind is even more necessary at this moment?” [2]

“Judging by the international trend, we need emancipation of the mind more now than at any other time. Globalization as an expansion of the domestic, economic activities is crucial to the long-term development of the global economic structure. During the current peaceful development, the powers and the distribution of interests are undergoing a deep reshuffle.

Only when we constantly emancipate the mind can we easily handle the developments, changes, and competition. Only then can we become successful, avoid losses, and achieve the goals of developing the nation and securing a position in the future global power map.

Judging by the domestic situation, we also need emancipation of the mind more than at any other time. With reform at a critical point, relationships among interest groups are getting more and more complicated. New situations and new problems are constantly emerging. Although our modernization has made great achievements, we continue to be at the preliminary stage of socialism for a long time. The pressures and tasks of development are thus imminent. Although people’s living conditions are continuously improving, there is a trend of deepening inequalities in income distribution between different regions and between rural and urban areas. Although the economy grows rapidly, social welfare, such as education and medical care, has not been able to keep up with it, making it difficult for people to receive medical care and education. Only if we constantly emancipate the mind can we calmly deal with future risks, safely pull through social transitions, protect the stability of the nation during reform and development, and guarantee the smooth progression of the modernization of socialism.”

There are bottom lines to emancipation of the mind.

The purpose to emancipation of the mind is to resolve real issues. However, this does not mean that we can say whatever we want to say, do whatever we want to do, and use whatever ways there are as long as it is for the purpose of resolving real issues.  There are bottom lines to emancipation of the mind, which is definitely not encouraging ‘running red lights’ or ‘paying edge ball.’ We must be clear-headed in our thoughts and firm in our political stance. We must especially insist on the fundamental political line of “one central task and two basic points” [3] and we must follow the constitution and laws. These are the bottom lines.
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Emancipation of the mind should not deviate from economic development as the central task. We must put our attention on construction and development and treat them as the primary tasks for the nation.

Emancipation of the mind should not deviate from the ‘Four Cardinal Principles,’ in front of which there is no room for freedom. Although our economic structure is pluralistic and the distribution of interests is diversified, the history and the situation of our nation disallow a multi-party political system. We must keep a multi-party cooperation under the leadership of the Chinese Communist Party. We must insist on the full power and authority of the CCP in the administration, judiciary, economy, culture, and military. We cannot allow so called ‘judicial independence’ or ‘nationalization of military.’ We must insist on socialism, and walk the path of socialism with Chinese characteristics. We must insist on the people’s democratic dictatorship and constantly develop socialistic democracy, thus be able to truly protect people’s benefits and protect the nation’s sovereignty, safety, unity, and stability. We must insist on the fundamental principles and implementations of the Marxism, Leninism, and Maoism. When we combine these with considerations for the constant changes in the current situation, we will be able to constantly enrich and develop the Marxism in practice.”

Endnotes:
[1]
Nanfang Weekend, January 17, 2008
http://www.nanfangdaily.com.cn/ZM/20080110/xw/200801100010.asp
[2]
People’s Forum on peopledaily.com.cn, September 20, 2007
http://news.sohu.com/20070920/n252265363.shtml
[3] “one central task and two basic points”
is the fundamental policy of the CCP at "Rudimentary Stage of Socialism" proposed ah the 13th NCCCP. The "one central task" refers to economic development as the central task; "two basic points" refers to upholding "Four Cardinal Principles" and "Reform and Opening."

Snow Disaster Worse than State Media Reports

As rare as the heavy snow through mid- and south-China, all of the nine politburo standing committee members stepped out of their Beijing office and went to different regions deemed most hit by the snow, which was worst in 50 years and also coincides with the busiest travel time in the year. Back in 1989, only the then-president Jiang Zemin and then-premier Zhu Rongji came to the worst flooding area along Yangtze River; back in 2003, when SARS broke out, only two highest officials – Hu Jintao and Wen Jiabao went outside Beijing to visit the disaster-ridden region. This time all nine standing politburo members all went out was taken as a sign that this snow disaster might be much worse than what the state media was reporting.

Source: Asia Times, February 5, 2008
http://www.atchinese.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=45911&Itemid=110