Tuesday, 8 October 2013

Trying to Milk Political Points

New Zealand Prime Minister John Key with Chinese President Xi Jinping
Chinese President Xi Jinping is at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum in Nusa Dua, Indonesia along with many other top leaders in the region. Most notably absent is American President Barack Obama due to the government shut down. Secretary of State John Kerry came in his place instead, but was relegated to the back in the photo call.

It's pretty telling how the US shutdown is perceived elsewhere...

Meanwhile, Xi hasn't been let off the hook easily by the citizens of his own country when he took the opportunity to berate New Zealand Prime Minister John Key about food safety.

According to Xinhua, Xi reminded Key that food safety mattered to people's health and "urged New Zealand to take tough measures to ensure food quality and thus maintain the sound momentum of economic and trade cooperation between the two countries".

People back in China are inundated with monthly reports on domestic food scandals and so for Xi to say this resulted in a collective face-palm.

"The entire country is laughing," wrote a Sina Weibo user.

Xi said this after New Zealand's largest dairy exporter Fonterra had some of its products banned in China earlier this year because of concerns over bacterial contamination. This resulted in extensive recalls, that impacted the New Zealand dollar and caused Fonterra chief executive Theo Spierings to issue an apology.

But can we point out the Chinese domestic dairy industry is in an even worse situation?

Five years after melamine was found in baby milk powder after the Beijing Olympics where at least six children died, China still hasn't sorted out the industry, streamlining how raw milk is collected to pasteurized and then distributed. It also hasn't enforced inspections and established an effective system of checks and balances.

More importantly the lack of trust in the government has meant parents continue to go outside of China to buy milk powder, creating havoc in their demand for above board food for their babies.

So why does Xi even dare to castigate New Zealand?

It's a political ploy everyone can see right through.

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