On Thursday, China weighed in on the IMF succession issue, saying the next managing director of the fund should be chosen “based on merit, transparency and fairness.” Beijing has every right to comment, but there must have been more than a few snickers at the idea of Zhongnanhai bosses urging a leadership selection based on a process they have never experienced and would never endorse for themselves.
Even discounting the fact that picking the leadership of international organizations has always been a political and diplomatic horse-trading process, it was not the first time that pronouncements from Beijing have been more of the “do as we say, not as we do” school. Nevertheless, it was another reminder of how far removed the Chinese Communist Party leadership is from the real world.
The problem is that such bland pronouncements (or bold-faced lies) are no longer something just the Chinese have to live with. As Beijing flexes its increasing economic and diplomatic power, more countries must deal with the fact that Chinese laws, business agreements and diplomatic pacts aren’t worth the paper they are written on if Beijing’s rulers (or lower-level municipal powers) change their minds. For Taiwan, the problem hits even closer to home.
Beijing’s spokespeople go on and on about how China’s Constitution and laws protect and serve its people, but it’s the people who suffer from misguided policies — from Mao Zedong’s (毛澤東) disastrous Great Leap Forward to the showcase Three Gorges Dam. The latter is such a mess that the State Council was forced to admit late on Wednesday that while the project was “a great success,” it had caused several major environmental, geological and economic problems. It’s doubtful that the 1.4 million people forced to move to make way for the dam will take much comfort from the council saying their livelihood and environmental protection must be ensured. Barn door, horse, shut, come to mind.
Look how well all those promises about food safety being a priority — made after the melamine-tainted milk powder scandal two years ago — have panned out. This spring has seen one nauseating food scandal after another in China, as the New York Times pointed out on May 8: the drug clenbuterol found in pork, pork soaked in borax so it can be sold as beef; cadmium-contaminated rice; arsenic in soy sauce; bleach in popcorn and mushrooms; an animal antibiotic in bean sprouts; outdated steamed buns recycled for sale and “eggs” made out of chemicals, gelatin and paraffin. That’s on top of the tainted toothpaste and pet food scandals of 2007 that affected consumers in many countries.
You have to wonder why Beijing bothered to ban fish, vegetables and other food items from areas near Japan’s Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant. A slight chance of radioactivity in their diet would seem to be the least of Chinese consumers’ worries.
It’s not that other countries, including Taiwan, don’t have food scandals, but at least those nations have regulatory systems that work, even if they take a while. And ordinary people or activists who try to expose the problems or lobby for remedies aren’t beaten, jailed or killed like they are in China. Just ask Gao Zhisheng (高智晟), Ai Weiwei (艾未未), Chen Guangcheng (陳光誠), Hu Jia (胡佳) or Nobel Peace laureate Liu Xiaobo (劉曉波) — if you can find them.