The Global Affairs in Desk in North Beach
Our man in Beijing is feisty (as usual)
by Matt McFertridge
For those of you basking in the afterglow of the Beijing Olympics, I had an e-mail chat with a Beijing correspondent. I started with a simple question.
Have you been spun enough to wag the five-star flag [the red flag of China]?
In a country which is famous for fakes, why did we expect anything more from the Olympics? These are the fake games … let’s tick off the list:
Fake press freedom: Ask John Ray from ITN [Independent Television News] about press freedom as he was being driven away in the back of a police van for trying to cover a Free Tibet protest.
Fake blue skies: Yes the skies are blue, but only because of extreme pollution control measures, which some reports suggest may have slowed China’s economic growth. And once the Games are over – get ready for pollution overdrive. Don’t worry, you residents of San Francisco – you’ll be sucking in the toxic air there as it wafts over the Pacific.
Fake performers: The little girl who lip-synched her way through the opening ceremony, complete with microphone on her dress, while the ugly kid with the good voice was banished to the side lines. And then all those cute little kids representing all the different ethnic groups in China … Tibetans, Muslims, etc. Well, they were all from the majority Han Chinese ethnic group. When this was pointed out to BOCOG [Beijing Organizing Committee for the Olympic Games], even though the kids were billed as being ethnically diverse, we were told that’s ‘nitpicking’, and ‘actors are used all the time.’
But award for best fake of the entire games: the smile permanently plastered on the face of IOC [International Olympic Committee] spokeswomen Giselle Davies … as she constantly deflect[ed] any question about human rights, media freedom and pollution, all the time listening to the absolute [spin] from BOCOG officials.
What’s up with the tainted milk thing? [53,000 Chinese infants have been sickened by a baby milk formula contaminated by the toxic chemical melamine.]
What does it say about a country that can spend a $100 million on the opening and closing ceremonies, but won’t spend enough money to ensure the milk its babies drink is safe? And do you think they’re going to care about the stuff you feed your kid?
Is it greed just like our Wall Street mess?
I think it’s great how the Chinese, and the world, are getting a chemistry lesson through dodgy products. … Whoever knew what melamine was before they mixed it with milk [and pet food]? … How about malachite green – the cancer-causing antibiotic in Chinese seafood? … Then there was sulphur in wood ears [a variety of mushroom] … DDT in ham …what was that diethylene glycol stuff in toothpaste and cough syrup that was actually meant for battery fluid and actually killed a few people around the world? … Don’t forget the excessive levels of formaldehyde in Chinese beer a few years ago. … In fact, formaldehyde is making a comeback in milk – it’s used to make the melamine dissolve. … To say nothing of napkins made from recycled hospital waste, soy sauce from human hair, and lard made from sewage … and the world is shocked by this? Come on.
It would be safe to assume our man in Beijing does not think greed is good.
It’s important to point out there’s two levels of greed here: the greed of the milk dealers who were skimming a few bucks by mixing melamine with the milk, but are essentially clueless about how dangerous this stuff is, and the greed of the corporations – some are part owned by western companies, which should know better, turned a blind eye, or worse, actively covered up the scam. Then there is the government. This is the problem when you have an authoritarian regime of wax figures running the show … an edict comes down … no bad news, especially product recalls, during the Olympics. So, even though corporate, local and provincial officials knew [about melamine contamination of baby milk formula], no one wanted to spoil the party … it all had to look perfect … the fake Olympics, remember? And what does it say about governments around the world that keep letting them get away with this? China has close to two trillion dollars in cash reserves, and W is looking for a trillion to help out his buddies on Wall Street. … But instead of asking China, ’Hey buddy, can you spare us a trillion?’… If we weren’t so in debt, if we didn’t have a war without end, if only we had raised taxes a little to pay to make us safe after 9/11, if only we had stopped the excesses on Wall Street with a little regulation and responsible oversight … maybe we’d be able to stand up to China and say enough. Enough with the cheap toxic killer products. … somehow the last eight years all seem to be coming home at once.”
Matt McFetridge is a two-time Emmy Award-winning television producer who has covered 20 wars in 20 countries over 20 years. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org