Mad in China: should unethical companies just “die”?

By David Bandurski — As China’s top quality inspection official sought to alleviate lingering concerns today over the safety of Chinese dairy products in the midst of the “Sanlu Milk Powder” scandal, Chinese media poked about the issue of who should bear responsibility and how, and Web users continued to voice their anger and frustration.

At China Youth Daily, columnist Liu Yibin (刘以宾) picked up on a phrase used recently by Premier Wen Jiabao in which he said dairy enterprises would, “without exception,” be “cleaned up” and dealt with firmly. Liu suggested that the best medicine for such enterprises might instead be to simply allow them to “die.”

“It would be best for enterprises lacking conscience just to die,” he wrote (没良心的企业最好死掉).

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[ABOVE: "Mad in China" label photographed by Andrew Huff, available under Creative Commons license at Flickr.com.]

The sentiment struck a chord with many Web users.

“Well said! You’ve spoken what was in my heart!” effused one reader. “Take Mengniu, for example, and all of it poisonous milk . . . They should be punished severely. Their lives should not be spared, and their family’s assets should be seized. Only through such strong measures can we rid ourselves of all of China’s scourges!!!!!”

“Death to them all!” roared another user in Beijing.

“Let’s give these wolves the heavy punishments they deserve,” wrote another participant from Heilongjiang province.

Others turned with venom on the system and its policies, and raised the problem of corporate abuses in other areas of popular concern.

“We demand safe products, not products that are exempted from inspection. Such exemptions are ridiculously unreasonable,” wrote a reader from Liupanshui City.

“If you open your eyes a bit further you have to wonder how many of the foods you eat are harmful. The freaking problem isn’t this or that person, or this or that company, but the whole set of policies in effect. Sure, we can cross the river by feeling the stones. But what if there are no stones? Why don’t we look back? Must we continue to court death? Healthcare reforms are just one example.

“‘It would be best for enterprises lacking conscience just to die . . . ‘ China’s real-estate industry is the most lacking in conscience. They’ve robbed generations of their hard-earned money and brewed up hordes of housing slaves.”

Portions of Liu Yibin’s editorial in China Youth Daily follow:

Death is Only Fair for Enterprises Lacking Conscience

As he visited children affected by the “Sanlu Milk Powder” affair, Premier Wen Jiabao pointed out: “This incident reveals that government inspections were insufficient, and shows us that a number of enterprises lack professional and social morals, what we call in common speech ‘lacking conscience’.” We need not only to hold leaders accountable, he said, but we must “firmly clean them up and deal with them, with no exceptions.”

Enterprises lacking conscience would be best to die off – this is not a rash conclusion but one arising rather from good sense.
[Product problems are to some degree unavoidable]. . . However, tolerance has its basic preconditions or “bottom line,” and that is that product quality issues be accidental, local and fragmentary in nature. If enterprises are not active and deliberate [in product quality issues], these can be considered objective faults, and when problems do occur they should blame themselves out of a sense of conscience. In the event that they pass this bottom line, particularly if they are reduced to the point of acting willfully against conscience, then they cannot be forgiven, and they should die (应该死掉).

. . . The real problem is that no local government wishes that its enterprises die, particularly those that contribute to GDP and generate tax revenues. Some leaders knew [about problems] earlier on, and we can’t rule out that some few might have encouraged them. From this standpoint, in “firmly cleaning them up and dealing with them, with no exceptions” we must break through the barrier of local protectionism.

[Posted by David Bandurski, September 24, 2008, 1:53pm HK]

3 Comments to “Mad in China: should unethical companies just “die”?”

  1. [...] An editorial in the China Youth Daily calls for producers to tainted milk products to simply shutter their doors — an unusual event for major companies with significant backing in their own backyards. [...]

  2. [...] China Media Project » Blog Archive » Mad in China: should unethical companies just “die”? – Responses from the Chinese media and public to the tainted milk scandal [...]

  3. [...] Media Project translated a column article by Liu Yibin at China Youth Daily which suggested that “it would be best for enterprises lacking conscience just to die.” Many netizens echoed with the suggestion. Posted by Oiwan Lam  Print Version Share [...]

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