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links for 2007-07-17

Being Administrator of China's FDA Can Be Hazardous to Your Health

Kill the chicken to scare the monkey. Justin Rohrlich reports:

Minyanville - NEWS & VIEWS-Article: The Speedy Execution of Zheng Xiaoyu: China "proves" to the world that they’re serious about product safety. The Beijing No. 1 Intermediate People’s Court carried out the execution of Zheng Xiaoyu, the former head of China’s State Food and Drug Administration, yesterday. He was sentenced to death for taking $832,000 in bribes to approve drugs that led to at least ten deaths. 

China Daily said: “Zheng’s death sentence was unusually heavy, even for China, and likely indicates the leadership’s determination to confront the country’s dire product safety record. The unusually harsh sentence and its prompt enforcement reflect the resolve of Beijing to fight against corruption and ensure consumer (sic).” With the recent spate of recalled Chinese goods further tarnishing the export market upon which the country’s growing economy largely depends (China’s exports in June rose 27.1% year-on-year to $103.27 bln), the government set out to “prove” that they’re serious about product safety. The state-run Xinhua news agency estimates that more than 330 tons of fruit and vegetables, 131 tons of meat, 82 tons of seafood, 21 tons of cheese and 3 million bottles of beverages will be consumed during the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, and officials are desperate to stave off a quality-related disaster.

Though Zheng’s sentence was described as “unusually heavy,” China carries out more court-ordered executions than the rest of the world combined. The Globe and Mail of Canada quoted Chinese legal expert Liu Renwen as saying that China is executing about 8,000 people each year...

But who, exactly, is the monkey here? Is this for foreign consumption, or the beginning of a drive to seriously alter the incentives of domestic regulators? And how would this be accomplished--independent testing laboratories and grassroots riots in response to adulteration would not seem to be the direction that China's State Council would choose.