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.