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Beijing's attitude about quality of its goods reflects its Maoist legacy.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007, Orange County Register

China: the defective-product king

Beijing's attitude about quality of its goods reflects its Maoist legacy.

By PETER NAVARRO

China's latest – and quite literal – game of "chicken" with the United States and other trading partners runs the very high risk of triggering a global trade war. In response to bans on genuinely contaminated or defective products from China, Beijing has retaliated harshly with its own far less justifiable bans on everything from French bottled water and Australian seafood to American pork and, yes, chicken.

That China has a very serious problem with the safety of its manufactured goods, foods, and drugs should not be in dispute. Thus far, the anecdotal evidence has given us toothpaste laced with diethylene glycol, toy trains coated with lead paint, defective tires that can kill you faster than a drunk on a Saturday night, catfish loaded to the gills with antibiotics, counterfeit Lipitor without any active ingredients and, perhaps most disgustingly within China, particularly "high fiber" pork buns that are 40 percent cardboard.

Anecdotes aside, the statistics on Chinese product quality – or the lack thereof – are even more damning. The central fact in this product safety debate is this: For whatever China exports to the United States, Europe or the rest of the world, its rates of contamination and defects tend to run much higher than its market share of the particular product. For example, while China accounts for about 20 percent of seafood imports into the United States, about 40 percent of all seafood rejected by U.S. regulators comes from China. In a similar vein, China has accounted for 100 percent of all toy recalls in the United States this year and fully 60 percent of all consumer-product recalls.

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