The government has come in for fierce criticism from both sides of the political divide since it was announced last week that restrictions on imports of US bone-in beef and offal would be lifted.
The criticism has mainly focused on the health risks posed by eating beef and beef products possibly contaminated with bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), or mad cow disease.
Although the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) and the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) claim to represent public concern in their vociferous protests, for the KMT caucus all of this seems to be nothing more than an excuse to bash the US, while the DPP’s machinations are obviously an attempt to highlight what it sees as the government’s latest display of ineptitude. It can also be assumed that both parties have one eye on December’s elections.
One thing that politicians don’t seem to be taking notice of, however, is the scientific evidence that suggests eating US beef poses no substantial health risk.
The ferocity of politicians would be entirely justified if it were imports of UK beef we were talking about, as the UK was where the BSE epidemic was first identified and where the vast majority of cases of variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease (vCJD), the human form of BSE, have been reported. The disease is a mainly British affair and the WHO says many of the cases reported in other countries were people likely exposed to the BSE agent while living in the UK during the height of the epidemic in the late 1980s.
Figures from the UK’s National Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease Surveillance Unit show that at the end of last month there had been 167 deaths from vCJD in the UK, with the peak (28 cases) occurring in 2000.
In the US, to date there have been just three cases of BSE (one imported) and three deaths from vCJD, but two of these three deaths were likely cases of exposure in the UK, while the other was a recent immigrant.
These figures are the kind of factual information the public should have been presented with before the ban was lifted. This would have given them the chance to make an informed choice on the matter, rather than be fed with misinformation, rumor and the mischief of politicians with ulterior motives.
American Institute in Taiwan Director William Stanton’s indelicate comparison that eating US beef is safer than riding a scooter only served to embolden opponents and allowed them to continue their campaign of baseless accusations.
The Presidential Office and government officials have repeatedly stressed that they followed the “South Korea example” regarding the strictness of controls imposed on the relaxation of US beef imports. That may be the case, but unfortunately the government also followed South Korea’s example by flunking basic public relations before the ban was lifted, allowing opportunist politicians of all hues to prey on ignorance and create fear.
The government’s amateurish handling of the whole episode means it is now putting out an endless series of spot fires in order to prevent a repeat of what happened in South Korea, instead of concentrating on more pressing matters of national interest.
Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co (TSMC) founder Morris Chang (張忠謀) has repeatedly voiced concern over the weakening cost competitiveness of its US fabs and challenged the US’ “on-shore” policy of building domestic semiconductor capacity. Yet not once has the government said anything, even though the economy is highly dependent on the chip industry. In the US, the cost of operating a semiconductor factory is at least twice the amount required to operate one in Taiwan, rather than the 50 percent he had previously calculated, Chang said on Thursday last week at a forum arranged by CommonWealth Magazine. He said that he had
The Twenty-Four Histories (中國廿四史) is a collection of official Chinese dynastic histories from Records of the Grand Historian (史記) to the History of the Ming Dynasty (明史) that cover the time from the legendary Yellow Emperor (黃帝) to the Chongzhen Emperor (崇禎), the last Ming emperor. History is written by the victors. These histories are not merely records of the rise and fall of emperors, they also demonstrate the ways in which conquerors embellished their own achievements while deriding those of the conquered. The history written by the People’s Republic of China (PRC) is no exception. The PRC presents its
In August 2013, Reuters reported that Beijing had been gaining soft power with investment commitments and trade with countries in Latin America. However, instead of jumping on the chance to make new allies, China stalled requests to establish diplomatic relations with the countries to avoid galling Taiwanese voters. Beijing was also courting then-president Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九), and the tactic left China with a trump card if cross-strait relations turned cool. China had rebuffed at least five countries’ requests to switch diplomatic recognition to Beijing, the report said, quoting a China analyst. Honduras could become the ninth diplomatic ally, and also the fifth
The International Criminal Court (ICC) arrest warrant issued on Friday last week for Russian President Vladimir Putin delighted Uighurs, as Putin’s today signals Chinese President Xi Jinping’s (習近平) tomorrow. The crimes committed by Xi are many times more serious than what Putin has been accused of. Putin has caused more than 8 million people to flee Ukraine. By imprisoning more than 3 million Uighurs in concentration camps and restricting the movement of more than 10 million Uighurs, Xi has not only denied them the opportunity to live humanely, but also the opportunity to escape oppression. The 8 million Ukrainians who fled