Yesterday the saga over the safety of US beef saw two main developments. First, the Department of Health said that US beef now in Taiwan's shops was safe and that there was no need to take it off the shelves. And in response, a group of legislators initiated a civil action for manslaughter against Department of Health Minister Hou Sheng-mao (
The safety of US beef has become a popular stick with which to beat the government. When it was announced that a second case of a cow infected with bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), or "mad-cow disease" as the British tabloids christened it, had been found in the US, there was great embarrassment. After all, Taiwan had only two months previously lifted a ban on US beef in place since the discovery of the first BSE-infected cow in December 2003.
Immediately the government was attacked for lifting the ban too soon. In doing so, it had, so a number of lawmakers asserted, caved in to US pressure. Taiwan Solidarity Union Legislator Lai Shin-yuan (
The Consumer Foundation joined the chorus demanding that all US beef be immediately taken off the shelves. "The government is making a huge gamble with people's lives," said foundation chairman Jason Lee (
So far, so dumb. But yesterday's lawsuit takes the stupidity of the squabble over the safety of US beef to an entirely new level. The legislators and the Consumer Foundation in their desire to showboat, to play to the gallery as caring and useful tribunes defending the public's wellbeing, have preferred fear over facts. Both parties deserve condemnation and scorn rather than praise.
What are the facts? For a start, the BSE case in the US is not a new one. It was a retest of an old sample dating from last year, when the animal died. Under current US regulations, the animal could not have entered the food chain. it was too old -- over 30 months -- and was born before the regulations on the use of beef by-products in cattle feed were in place. This animal, as the American Institute in Taiwan pointed out, has nothing to do with the beef that was until last week imported into Taiwan. Add to this the fact that the World Animal Health Organization (WAHO) stated last month that boneless beef from cattle under 30 months old -- the only US beef available in Taiwan -- can be freely traded without risk to consumers, even from BSE-infected countries (as long as certain safeguards are in place, which in the US' case they are) and a reasonable person soon comes to the conclusion that US beef poses no danger.
Given these conditions, the government certainly caved in to pressure -- but not pressure from the US, but from unscrupulous, populist politicians. It should not have banned US beef, but explained clearly why such a ban was unnecessary. Those who do not believe in the WAHO's science or the effectiveness of US slaughterhouse regulation could simply choose not to eat US beef. Let the market decide. Which last weekend it did; consumers flocked to the stores to purchase US beef, expecting that stores would cut prices to get the meat off their shelves before they might be compelled to take it off. At least the public has shown some common sense.
China constantly seeks out ways to complain about perceived slights and provocations as pretexts for its own aggressive behavior. It is both victimization paranoia and a form of information warfare that keeps the West on the defensive. True to form, China objected even to the innocuous reference to Taiwan at April 16’s summit meeting between US President Joe Biden and Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga. Neither leader’s prepared remarks even mentioned Taiwan, out of deference to the Japanese side. Biden’s opening statement was modest: “Prime Minister Suga and I affirmed our ironclad support for US-Japanese alliance and for our shared security.
Determined to keep a permanent grip on power, Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) has abandoned former paramount leader Deng Xiaoping’s (鄧小平) dogma of “hiding our capacities and biding our time” along with the “peaceful development” line that prevailed under former Chinese presidents Jiang Zemin (江澤民) and Hu Jintao (胡錦濤). Instead, he is treading a “wolf warrior” path of diplomacy that resorts to coercion, debt entrapment and hostage-taking. Externally, Xi’s China has claimed that it would never seek hegemony, yet it challenges the free, rules-based international order wherever it can. While insisting that it will not export its ideology, it has
Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) expressed “deep concern” over the staggering rise of COVID-19 cases in India, and offered to supply medical equipment and vaccine doses to the country, but his overtures sparked debate in India’s academic and political circles about his sincerity to help, particularly as it was followed by a vulgar display of schadenfreude over the hundreds of thousands of cremations of deaths caused by the virus in the country. The vast majority of Indians were already angry and frustrated with Beijing needling the country on a number of issues, including imports from China, which were abruptly stopped
As the US’ mass COVID-19 vaccination campaign continues at a record pace, one question under debate is what the administration of US President Joe Biden should do with its extra doses — and especially where to send them. One country that should be at the top of a donation list is Taiwan, in recognition of the help that it provided to the US at the outset of the COVID-19 pandemic last year. After weeks of pressure, the Biden administration announced that it is now “looking at options to share American-made AstraZeneca vaccine doses.” By summer, it is clear that anyone in the