Reflections on a Wandering Life.....

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

The milk scandal here in China broadened greatly with news that both Yili and Mengniu been found to contain melamine in some milk supplies. However small the amount, the news is devastating for the milk industry. For those of you not familiar with the milk industry in China, Mengniu and Yili are the two largest dairies in Inner Mongolia, the "Wisconsin" of China. In China milk is not found in the cooler. It is found in the aisles. The vast majority of milk sold in China is UHT milk, like the United Nations milk cans we used to see in the mission field when I was a kid. It comes in envelopes, which can be purchased individually, or by the box.

Some foreigners complain about it, but I actually like the stuff. It's good milk. But the problem is that UHT milk has a shelf life of several months, so if the milk is found to be tainted now, it affects the sale of several months worth of milk Yogurt is different. In China, yogurt is a beverage, and it is kept in the cooler. Still, it's pretty certain that sales of any kind of dairy product will be severely affected by the current crisis.

One has to wonder what kind of sick mind would put poison in milk supplies just because the chemical in question elevates the protein count. But it points to a great weakness in Chinese society. The two brothers involved in the original scandal said that they were very careful not to give their own families any of the milk they had poisoned. "Me and my family against the world." It is quite disturbing to see how prevalent this attitude is among the laobaixing in this country.

But the larger problem is the "old China" way of doing things. Lie cheat or steal as long as you don't get caught. I hasten to interject that there are those in this country who object to this mentality. But there are also far too many who seem to feel that it is perfectly acceptable to lie about the ages of Olympic athletes, but not OK to lie about the ingredients in milk. Lying is lying, and fostering falsehood in one situation tends to encourage a general spirit of lawlessness that comes back to haunt the society in ways they never could have anticipated. China is learning the hard way that you can't have it both ways.

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