US experts, media warn against over-hyping Chinese products

Updated: 2007-09-14 14:31

WASHINGTON - US experts and members of the media have spoken out against demonizing Chinese products, saying some foreign reports are playing up the quality problems with ulterior motives.

"China has been portrayed as a nation blind to hygiene and blissfully unconcerned about recent reports of food contamination, " said a commentary carried by The Washington Post recently. "That's troubling, because it reinforces the notion that befouled food is the consequence of a foul culture."

The writer recalled that "food libel" has long been an aspect of a larger fear of China.

"The association of Chinese with dubious edibles has insinuated itself into our cultural consciousness in small and seemingly trivial ways -- in schoolyard taunting, in sitcom gags about takeout food, in standup monologues about puppy chow mein," he said.

The commentary said some US media, with a hint of racism, were using irrelevant cases or just a few cases to make the safety issue much bigger than it was.

For example, in May, the conservative news organ asked, "Is China Trying to Poison Americans and Their Pets?"

"The nativist drumbeat has only pounded louder ever since, suggesting that China has been waging a secret biowarfare campaign to destroy the United States from deep, deep within -- planting WMDs in the Wal-Mart cart, if you will," the commentary said.

"Yellow-peril imagery has been oozing from the extreme margins into the mainstream," the article said, adding that if Chinese sources were stripped from the food-industry supply chain, US corporations would simply turn to other low-cost exporters, with comparably poorer safety records.

Pointing the finger at Asian imports was the default PR strategy for US auto manufacturers in the 1970s because it was easier to blame faceless, nameless hordes of foreigners than to address the industry's real problems, the article recalled.

Many experts agreed that problems exist in China's products safety complex, but also pointed out the US and the world should share the blame for the defective China products.

A report released by two Canadian business professors days ago concluded that most recalls of toys made in China were because of design errors, not manufacturing problems or the lead paint issue.

The report, which analyzed Chinese-made toy recalls by going through recalls issued by the US Consumer Product Safety Commission from 1988 to August, 2007, found of the 550 toy recalls, 76.4 percent were due to problems that could be attributed to design flaws.

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