The Chinese Industrial Menace: Poisoned Products, Bullied Press

James from Thomas the Tank Engine

With a two-year-old in the house, it is virtually impossible to avoid purchasing products made in China. While I do my best to find clothes and toys from India, Taiwan, and the good old USA, some things are simply only made in China.

Case in point: all the “Thomas the Tank Engine” toys. Since his second birthday in April, my son’s only toy interest has been the wooden Thomas & Friends tracks and engines. They are terrific toys – durable, detailed, functional, creative, and virtually indestructible. They are also all made in China, at the private factory of RC2 Corp. of Oak Brook, IL.

Turns out RC2’s Chinese factory was cutting corners by using lead-based surface paint for some of the childrens’ trains. A massive recall was announced last week; seven of my son’s train cars and accessories may have been tainted with lead. (Kids never put these things in their mouths, do they?)

So, while hundreds of thousands of parents have to go through the trouble of sending their toys back to RC2 for replacements (please allow 6-8 weeks for delivery…), and have to worry about heavy metals polluting their kids’ central nervous systems, the Chinese factory bosses are spending their time…stonewalling the press! Check out this revealing piece from the normally wretched New York Times, “My Time as a Hostage, and I’m a Business Reporter” (David Barboza, June 24, 2007) :

SHANGHAI – AS an American journalist based in China, I knew there was a good chance that at some point I’d be detained for pursuing a story. I just never thought I’d be held hostage by a toy factory.

That’s what happened last Monday, when for nine hours I was held, along with a translator and a photographer, by the suppliers of the popular Thomas & Friends toy rail sets.

“You’ve intruded on our property,” one factory boss shouted at me. “Tell me, what exactly is the purpose of this visit?” When I answered that I had come to meet the maker of a toy that had recently been recalled in the United States because it contained lead paint, he suggested I was really a commercial spy intent on stealing the secrets to the factory’s toy manufacturing process.

The author goes on to describe how the factory thugs tried to seize the Times reporter’s photographs, and how the local political and police operatives offered almost no help.

Barboza interprets the local officials’ fecklessness as a sign that the Communist government is unable to control the business barons. I have a different take. The Communist government is powerless not by necessity, but by choice. They want foreign journalists to be stonewalled on negative news. They want foreign journalists to be intimidated when they stumble upon the dark underbelly of the “miracle economy”. Above all, they want their industry protected from criticism. So when a factory thug holds foreign journalists hostage, the authorities are happy to let things run their course…for a little while, anyway. Long enough to make the point: keep it positive, or else.

Poisoned dog food…tainted toothpaste…dangerous toy trains. What’s next, industrial slavery? Ugh…truly sickening. Yet is this really surprising? Communism is as Communism does – amoral, bloodthirsty, inhuman, totalitarian, and utterly destructive.



Filed under China: Outsourcing our Morality

12 responses to “The Chinese Industrial Menace: Poisoned Products, Bullied Press

  1. This is so sickening. I sell into the US and it is painful to call up a firm only to hear that the facility is being closed down and manufacturing is being outsourced to China. My hope remains that creeping capitalism will eventually serve to democratize China but this shows a risk that is simply too hard to ignore.

  2. neo

    Lead paint on toy trains may not even be the most outrageous transgression.

    “Just in the last month, a ghoulish fake eyeball toy made in China was recalled after it was found to be filled with kerosene”.


  3. MA

    Deeply maddening and sickening! But then, why should we be surprised that they have no respect for human life, not even a toddler’s? Their forced abortion policy speaks volumes about that.

    The question still is what does one do with the reality that so very many products available here and/or the ones that are affordable (for some things) are from China?

  4. Big business has outsourced its morality to China, in pursuit of greater profit margins. The only way to combat this is to be a conscious consumer – shop around for non-Chinese alternatives (whenever possible), and keep shining a harsh PR light on Chinese industrial practices until everyone understands the tradeoff we’ve made.

    I used to be a great defender of Wal Mart, but on my last visit there, I noticed virtually everything on the shelves was manufactured in China. Wal Mart is the biggest driver behind this – when the world’s largest retailer sets prices based on dirt-cheap Chinese imports, its competitors must either follow suit, or find some other way to compete.

    Does this mean I’m going to join the boycott of Wal Mart? No, I try never to make common cause with the left. But I’m suddenly no longer interested in shopping there.

  5. Yea I agree with you on Walmart, fortunately I am able to vote with wallet.

  6. MA

    Wow…I just read this a few days ago, and thought I’d share:


    I feel very badly for the Chinese essentially trapped in such conditions, too.

  7. mark

    Check out Great toys. No lead!

  8. Francesca

    That’s what we get for supporting communist Chinese slave lobour.

  9. C. Patra

    The evils of capitaslism!

  10. C. Patra

    The evils of capitalism!

  11. iwiki

    We have purified “James”….really

  12. If the Chinese won’t buy their own toys, neither should we.
    How greedy and thoughtless we’ve become!

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