SEB Mailbag: Chinese lead conspiracy theories.

I got an email from a reader commenting on my rant about lead-tainted Chinese products. They quoted where I wrote “Is it too much to ask, however, that our own government have the balls necessary to tell China to either make their shit safe or don’t bother bringing it to America?” Then supplied me with the following theory:

A far off synopsis… what if China has been implanting lead in the brains of children in America for years… on purpose… to damage the brains of the children… future adults… a conspiracy to become the ruling country… the country with the intelligence…

just a thought!

I call Occam’s Razor. Sure it’s possible that China’s problem with lead tainted products could be a very clever conspiracy on their part to dumb down the rest of the world, but it’s also possible that it’s simply a case of greed and lax standards. The latter theory has a precedent very close to home. America, in fact. The Boston Globe had a very good article a couple weeks back titled A Nation of Outlaws:

As with China and Harry Potter, America was a hotbed of literary piracy; like China’s poisonous pet-food makers, American factories turned out adulterated foods and willfully mislabeled products. Indeed, to see China today is to glimpse, in a distant mirror, the 19th-century American economy in all its corner-cutting, fraudulent glory.

China may be a very different country, but in many ways it is a younger version of us. The sooner we understand this, the sooner we can realize that China’s fast and loose brand of commerce is not an expression of national character, much less a conspiracy to poison us and our pets, but a phase in the country’s development. Call it adolescent capitalism, if you will: bursting with energy, exuberant, dynamic. Like any teenager, China’s behavior is also maddening, irresponsible, and dangerous. But it is a phase, and understanding it that way gives us some much-needed perspective, as well as some tools for handling the problem. Indeed, if we want to understand how to deal with China, we could do worse than look to our own history as a guide.

A bit of empathy might even be in order. One hundred and fifty years ago, even America’s closest trade partners were despairing about our cheating ways. Charles Dickens, who visited in 1842, was, like many Britons, stunned by the economic ambition of our nation’s inhabitants, and appalled by what they would do for the sake of profit. When he first stepped off the boat in Boston, he found the city’s bookstores rife with pirated copies of his novels, along with those of his countrymen. Dickens would later deliver lectures decrying the practice, and wrote home in outrage: “my blood so boiled as I thought of the monstrous injustice.”

In the United States of the early 19th century, capitalism as we know it today was still very much in its infancy. Most people still lived on small farms, and despite the persistent myth that America was the land of laissez-faire, there were plenty of laws on the books aimed at keeping tight reins on the market economy. But as commerce became more complex, and stretched over greater distances, this patchwork system of local and state-level regulations was gradually overwhelmed by a new generation of wheeler-dealer entrepreneurs.

Taking a page from the British, who had pioneered many ingenious methods of adulteration a generation or two earlier, American manufacturers, distributors, and vendors of food began tampering with their products en masse—bulking out supplies with cheap filler, using dangerous additives to mask spoilage or to give foodstuffs a more appealing color.

It’s a good article and I recommend you go read the whole thing as it’s about four pages long. It sheds light on what the problem in China most likely is: growing pains.

1 thought on “SEB Mailbag: Chinese lead conspiracy theories.

  1. I said it before (and here I think) they may be made in China, but who who are the companies?

    Companies move the production to sweat shops in SE asia becaus ethey get virtual slave labour, with workers having no rights.  Just because they are mad in China doesnt make these products ‘chinese’.

    Products are made at the spec of the patent holder etc.  If company ‘x’are importing products with lead paint in then what are they doing about it?  Why is the Government allowing such things in the country?

    Actually this could just be the US playing by its own rules- when the EU tries to stop US food stuffs that contained substances banned in Europe , the Whitehouse stamps its feet about ‘Free Trade’ and uses the threat of WTO.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.