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    Reporters Without Borders said in it’s 2005 special report titled “Xinhua: the world’s biggest propaganda agency”, that “Xinhua remains the voice of the sole party”, “particularly during the SARS epidemic, Xinhua has for last few months been putting out news reports embarrassing to the government, but they are designed to fool the international community, since they are not published in Chinese.”
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Milk scandal sours China’s ‘soft power’

Posted by Author on October 13, 2008

By Willy Lam, Asia Times Online, Hong Kong, 9 Oct 2008-

China’s formidable state machinery was able to stage the largest Olympics in history and to have a “Taikonaut” perform a 20-minute spacewalk last week. Yet the world-scale scandal emanating from contaminated milk products has exposed the worsening malaise in the country’s political and administrative structure.

As of early October, four children died and more than 60,000 children were sickened after having consumed milk powder tainted with melamine, an illegal chemical used by farmers to fake the protein content of their milk. Not only rich countries such as the United States and Britain, but also Asian and African nations ranging from Singapore and Vietnam to Gabon and Ghana, have banned Chinese-made dairy goods and a wide range of biscuits and candies made with Chinese ingredients.

More than a dozen big-name manufacturers within China’s $20 billion dairy industry – as well as the country’s food safety regulatory system – have been found guilty of either conniving in the use of the chemical or failing to spot the malpractice, according to reports.

The milk powder scandal has dealt a severe blow to the “made in China” brand even as the growth of China’s exports – the most important driver of the Chinese economy – has been slowed by economic downturn in its major markets.

More significantly, China’s export of tainted milk products – which has come on the heels of contaminated cosmetics and pet food as well as dangerous toys and furniture – has severely damaged the goodwill and “soft power” that the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has tried to gain through multi-billion dollar “prestige-engineering projects” such as the 2008 Beijing Olympics and the 2010 Shanghai World Expo.

In an emotional meeting with the parents of children who had fallen sick after imbibing tainted milk, Premier Wen Jiabao said he felt “very guilty” about the poisoned milk, adding “I sincerely apologize to all of you.”

While appearing at the United Nations General Assembly as well as the World Economic Forum (WEF), Wen assured the international community of Beijing’s ability to fix the problem. Referring to the milk disaster, Wen said at the WEF last weekend: “This issue is not over yet, but please be assured that we will soon unveil plans to boost the food industry. My government and I will lead our people through this hard journey.”

While Wen has a well-deserved reputation as a “premier who puts people first”, his words may not sound that convincing. Only weeks after the Beijing Olympics, China has witnessed man-made disasters of gargantuan proportions.

More than 250 residents in Xiangfen County, Shanxi province, perished in a mudslide in early September. The accident was triggered by the collapse of the retaining wall of an illegal mining dump containing tons of liquid iron ore waste. In nearby Henan province, 37 miners were killed in an accident in Dengfeng County. The cause of the disaster was again lax regulations and poor inspection. Then came the fire in Wu Wang Nightclub, an illegal, unlicensed outfit in Shenzhen, the boomtown just across the border from Hong Kong. Forty-three revelers, including five day-trippers from Hong Kong, perished.

Even assuming that party and government authorities are really serious this time, they face an uphill battle in eradicating unscrupulous and malfeasant manufacturers and businessmen in China. A key reason behind the recent spate of scandals is that particularly in the provinces and cities, entrepreneurs and regional officials enjoy cozy relationships. And this is not solely because large corporations are major tax contributors. …… (more details from Asia Times Online)

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