Sep 28

(Letter) Some Chinese Satire: Sanlu Incident Provoked by International Anti-Chinese Imperialist Reactionaries!

Written by Joel on Sunday, September 28th, 2008 at 10:44 am
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A Mainlander uses the Made in China dairy scandal to spoof arguments commonly made by the Chinese government, fenqing, and other blindingly patriotic Mainlanders.

I’m posting this because I think it’s important for foreigners to see that there’s a diversity of opinion in the Mainland. Personally, I think these kinds of posts actually make China look good/better.



The Sanlu Incident is another poisoned arrow targeting our national industry from the imperialist reactionaries!

The case of the “kidney stone babies” is again an incident provoked by international anti-Chinese interests. Considering the fact that other countries have had food safety problems, why can’t China also have the problem? Why only condemn China?

It is the conspiracy of the west to indoctrinate Chinese to drink untainted milk powder from youth in order to destroy China’s milk powder industries.

Chinese should have a long-term perspective and first drink tainted milk powder for another few decades sacrificing one or two generations; after Sanlu later promptly becomes strong so that it can compete with western production, then we can start to produce infants untainted milk powder step by step, given the assumption that there still remain some infants at that time.

Although Sanlu’s milk power is tainted, it solves the food problem of hundreds of thousands of babies in China. Who else in history could achieve this?

Finally as I appeal, as anti-Chinese interests boycott Chinese Sanlu milk powder, the victims will only be our vast number of babies. All Chinese patriots should hold together, firm up our position, and drink Sanlu milk powder all together.

There are currently 2 comments highlighted: 16579, 16700.

34 Responses to “(Letter) Some Chinese Satire: Sanlu Incident Provoked by International Anti-Chinese Imperialist Reactionaries!”

  1. Leo Says:

    It is not a random “Mainlander”. It is obviously a right-wing “internationalist” (actually, a right-wing fenqing). The so-called “arguments made by the Chinese government, fenqing, and other blindingly patriotic Mainlanders” is a strawman. No Chinese officials, and few leftist fenqings, will make such kind of remarks, no matter how “blindly patriotic” they are. Anyway, dare you say half a word that is positive towards Today’s China, you are already fully qualified by Joel, the right-wing fenqings, as “blindly patriotic”. It is a futile “war of mouthwater”.

  2. Netizen K Says:

    China has cynics. That’s not news. These are people who think themselves are smart but they are underachievers. Instead of doing things real, like volunteers in the Sichuan Earthquake and Beijing Olympics, they only know to blame others for problems.

  3. George Shen Says:

    Being cynical is easy while solving the problem at its core is not. Stuff made in china got such a bad reputation that every decent Chinese should be ashamed of. It’s the failure from the leadership at the top and the deteriating of basic human decency at the bottom. In a society where greed is the only motive to drive business decisions, disasters are, like time bombs, ready to explode sooner or later. We have seen the classic example of greed instilled in toxic mortgages in wake of wall st. financial crisis, haven’t we? Just in Sanlu’s case, toxic baby formula actually kills babies. It’s a national shame!

  4. Greypowered Says:


    Look at this one as well: http://chinadigitaltimes.net/2008/09/a-happy-day-in-the-life-of-an-ordinary-chinese-person-sanlu-edition/.

    But China is far from being the only country that is confronted with issues of food contamination or general food and drug safety. We’ve had some pretty scary scandals in Europe these last few years too. However, I would say that noone would think of raising the “anti-[French, German, British,…whatever country] plot” argument. It doesn’t mean that the statements made by politics or industrials in these cases are of better faith!

  5. S.K. Cheung Says:

    I think, as a show of confidence in Chinese national food safety, and as a show of confidence in Chinese regulatory effectiveness, Hu Jintao should go on national TV, and slam back a glass of milk mixed on-air from a recalled batch of Sanlu milk powder. Thereafter, with a fresh milk mostache, he should declare: “what problem? I don’t taste no problem! My kidneys have never felt better!”

  6. FOARP Says:

    @SK Cheung – Oh My God! Of course! It would be the perfect confidence-boosting strategy! A “Got Melamine?” Campaign!!!!!

  7. S.K. Cheung Says:

    To FOARP:
    LOL! Yes, and in Canada, “got milk” ads often use celebrities and athletes. So maybe get Hu in there with a Chinese gold medallist, a couple glasses of Sanlu’s finest vintage. Maybe the tag line can read “how are you going to remember August 2008?”

  8. Kai Says:

    I share Joel’s sentiment that these sort of posts (by Chinese) are too often overlooked by those who would benefit most from seeing them. Spending 5 minutes on Fools Mountain is enough to make me retreat to chinaSMACK for 5 hours, you know, to regain my sanity and faith in humanity (of which mainland Chinese are part of, I think).

  9. RMBWhat Says:

    Right on. I fully support this.

    *Sanlu milk dranked*


    I feel.. I feel WONDERFUL… What did you put in this yo!!!

    …a hour later….

    *RMBWhat has donned a red star cape*

    To infinity and beyond! The International Communists unite!
    Together, with our magical sanlu englightment,
    we shall crush the imperialists!
    Long live the one world communist utopia!
    Long live bilderberg group, cfr, and the trilateral commision!
    Long live the NWO!

  10. Netizen K Says:

    All the twisted minds came out of the woodwork.

  11. S.K. Cheung Says:

    What, Netizen K? No sense of humour? Pity.

  12. wukong Says:

    Sanlu milk – 4
    Maple Leaf lunch meat – 19

  13. wukong Says:


    Speaking of ChinaSMACK, I found this comment on “students having sex in wild” a real gem:

    Wow, I thought Chinese people were so boring and homely, guess that teaches me ha ha! Why people are so horrified by seeing a good thing like sex is beyond me. They must have never of had an orgasm or something…

    Oh my, someone’s discovering Chinese are actually human beings capable of emotions!

    In terms of moving mountains, I guess this means ChinaSMACK has moved at least one piece of rock. Hooray! 😛

  14. S.K. Cheung Says:

    To Wukong:
    an excellent point indeed. One you should loudly declare on a Blog for Canada…which, in case you haven’t noticed, ain’t this one.
    Oh, and we know the source (listeria contamination of meat cutting machines) after an investigation by national authorities. And the president of Maple Leaf apologized on national TV, and recalled meats roughly one week after being aware of the problem.
    So, since you like comparisons….what have Chinese authorities pinpointed so far as the cause of melamine contamination? How are the press conferences going at Sanlu HQ? Could you remind me how long it took for them to recall the milk powder after they became aware of the problem? I mean, since we’re comparing and everything…

  15. Joel Says:

    I am totally serious when I say that this kinds of writings makes China look better to Westerners (remember I only quoted part of it – click the links to see the whole thing). If Leo and Netizen get irritated and think I’m using this to bash China, well, then i suspect they still have some things to learn about Westerners. Bashing China is not my intention at all.

    I agree with them that too much cynicism is unhealthy, and that actions are better than words. But people should realize that this kind of writing gives the impression of growing confidence, growing emotional maturity, growing psychological strength, and a sense of humour — and that looks good to us (if i may speak so broadly).

    These qualities often seem to be lacking in lots of other writings (like BXBQ’s latest post and Leo (#1) and Netizen (#2)’s comments in this thread). When those qualities are lacking it gives the impression that those writers are psychologically weak, lacking confidence, emotionally immature, and have no sense humour. (Please note I’m only talking about “impressions” here – I don’t know these people personally so obviously I can’t really judge their character.)

    I made this point before, but I think it’s extremely important:

    Mainlanders want to present a certain image of themselves, their culture, their country, their civilization, and their race to the West. But HOW they go about making that image will speak much more loudly to Westerners than whatever the finished image actually looks like.

    For example, people might prefer that Westerners only see positive news of China, and the embarrassing stuff gets hidden. But the very act of trying to hide information from us makes a much worse impression than the negative news itself would. That’s a big reason why we are often so cynical toward China (especially the Chinese gov) AND so cynical toward our own politicians (especially in an election year).

  16. Wukailong Says:

    @Joel: “I am totally serious when I say that this kinds of writings makes China look better to Westerners (remember I only quoted part of it – click the links to see the whole thing). If Leo and Netizen get irritated and think I’m using this to bash China, well, then i suspect they still have some things to learn about Westerners. Bashing China is not my intention at all.”

    Couldn’t agree more. For all of the Western misunderstandings of China, this Chinese misunderstanding of the West (they want to split us, 惟恐天下不乱 etc) is just an annoyance. It’s like somebody looking out of a window at playing kids and saying: They want to hurt each other!

  17. Michelle Says:


    I agree *entirely*.

    This essay is worth 90 points to me.

  18. S.K. Cheung Says:

    To Joel:
    I third WKL’s, and second Michelle’s, assessments.

  19. Michelle Says:

    Leo “No Chinese officials, and few leftist fenqings, will make such kind of remarks, no matter how “blindly patriotic” they are. ”

    After reading the first few comments, it seems as if maybe the point of the original post has been muddled. The writer wasn’t suggesting that any officals/fengqing would actually think these things regarding the San Lu incident, it’s quite clever satire.

  20. werew Says:

    “But people should realize that this kind of writing gives the impression of growing confidence, growing emotional maturity, growing psychological strength, and a sense of humour — and that looks good to us (if i may speak so broadly.”

    Hang out around Chinese forum more. I mean there is a lot more funny cynicism on the internet already. You need to personally experience more of the satirical and humorous China, instead of just getting glimpse of it from english blogs/media. If you only hang out around english chinese forums/blogs, mostly you are only going to meet oversea Chinese. I think the wrong perception that people get is that Chinese are nationalistic. I say not nationalistic enough if you look at the actual mainland Chinese internet. You can be surprised how cynical and critical of the government they can be and how big a majority that is. Fenqing has always been a minority on the internet, other than in March, April and May this year, when the China bashing became too outrageous.

  21. chinayouren Says:

    Good post, Joel. I am sure many of the angry commenters in this blog would entirely approve if you only changed “untainted milk” for “human rights”.

    @werew: Indeed, there is a lot of funny cynicism going on in the chinese forums, but most chinese from mainland still do not share this attitude. Or at least, not in front of foreigners.

    Even in a relatively open city like Shanghai, even with young people who are good friends and who should know by now that I love the country. Every time I criticize some aspect of the chinese system, most of them immediately turn into National Face Saving mode. Either they engage in a heated defence along the lines of Joel’s quoted text (the outspoken ones), or else they just sit and stare with a tortured look (the shy ones), which is even worse because it forces me to change subject for fear of hurting their feelings.

    Sense of humour is seriously lacking in China today, as the first few comments on this post clearly show. Or at least some brand of it, a bit of the healthy self-deprecating humour which is so useful to avoid taking oneself too seriously.

    Some scientists believe a developed sense of humour is a sign of higher intelligence. Then again, they are western scientists, and this might be just a western point if view. In any case, this aspect is largely overlooked when we analyze the cultural differences between China and the West. I have the feeling that the humour divide between the two cultures might be much more meaningful than some of the confucian principles that experts spend years analyzing. For further discussion.

  22. werew Says:

    Obviously China is still not open enough. A foreigner criticizing your country is still a big thing and totally different from a fellow Chinese criticizing the country to them, especially for young people. Maybe as China grow more open and more integrated with the world, Chinese people wouldn’t take foreign criticism so seriously. There are just as much criticism of the government in China as in the west. It is just that foreigners couldn’t experience often, probably because Chinese still can’t accept foreigners and are uncomfortable and reserved around them. Also, the lack of perceived humor could probably be explained by the same reason: Chinese are uncomfortable around foreigners.

  23. EugeneZ Says:

    The milk power scandal makes China look bad, period. I do not see where the silver lining is. Chinese, government, Chinese businesses, China as a nation all look very bad. I do not see any other way to spin this. The problem is deeply rooted, but most of all, it is rooted in the current political system.

    Regardless the economic development achieved over the last 30 years, China’s development is not a balanced one. Many things are very inadequate relative to the growth of GDP, among which are open society, freedom of media, rule of law, robustness of civil society. Chinese people are no less decent as compared to other enthnicity, judged by the behavior and reputation of overseas Chinese living in the west, so why would such a wide spread scandal happen in China, but not in the US?

    China can organize a spectacular Olympics, can even put a man on the moon, but can not make a clean baby foumula – I hope that Chinese people are asking themselves this question.

    What kind of people, what kind of country do we want to be when all is said and done? Are we going to be a strange monster, or are we going to converge with the enlightened on the path to modernization?

  24. S.K. Cheung Says:

    To EugeneZ:
    well said! I completely agree that the problem is in the “political system”, but it goes beyond just the CCP; It involves at least the legal system as well. And I especially agree that Chinese are no less decent than any other people. But in a lawless society, people will act like animals…it’s just human nature. And while China has all the laws it will ever need (and then some) when it comes to dealing with dissent, it clearly doesn’t have enough effective ones for regulating commerce.
    Morality aside, everyone who is in business does so to make a buck. So if a US dairy farmer can make more money putting melamine rather than milk into his milk, the thought may have just flashed across his mind. But the chance of detection is so high, and the price of detection so steep, that it’s just not worth it. Such effective deterrence is clearly lacking in China. The question is why?
    And I do wonder. Doing business “morally” is expensive. Not allowing corners to be cut costs more money. And one reason people might still tolerate the CCP is because of China’s growth. So if, by installing more stringent regulations, the CCP stifles growth, would she be biting the hand that feeds it? Are kidney stones the societal price to pay for keeping the economy humming, and the CCP relevant?

  25. EugeneZ Says:

    To S.K. Cheung,

    The Sanlu scandal is much more complex and much uglier than just a few greedy and immoral people at the milk collection stations, it is the grandfather of China’s ugliness in many aspects. The company knew about the poisoned milk power months before it broke in news, sometime late last year or January 2008, they continued to promote the product, and made news when they donated tons to Sichuan earthquake. Just think a minute about those poor children in Sichuan in terms of what they had to go through …

    Government at various levels including department of health knew about this, but did not take action, Sanlu paid news media not to publish, the chairwoman of Sanlu is a government official. And, do not forget, such practice of adding melamine is well known secret in the industry, all top3 diary producers were caught doing it.

    China faces a huge problem – the political system can sustain GDP growth, but is choking the growth in many other essential aspects that are required for China to achieve modernization. The problem of legal system you stressed is simply a subset of the problems with the political system.

    Foreing influence is essential to China, as long as the foreigners are well educated about China and well intentioned.

  26. werew Says:

    To be angry at the government for inadequate regulation to push for reforms is all well and good, but to attribute the problem only to the political system is faulty logic, since this kind of consumer screwing incident did happen in other political system that are completely unlike the current Chinese one. Even with those political system, reforms didn’t happen on their own and they were pushed to be implemented by the public opinion after embarrassing scandal. Whether I believe in the Chinese political system’s ability to reform itself lies on how it will evolve from this scandal and if this scandal is allowed to happen again. I can only wait and see.

  27. S.K. Cheung Says:

    To EugeneZ:
    once again completely agree. Forgot about that Sanlu-Sichuan link. That’s just rich…now those kids have no homes, but kidney stones.
    “the political system can sustain GDP growth, but is choking the growth in many other essential aspects” – Sophie’s choice for Chinese people…do you want to grow, or do you want to GROW?

  28. S.K. Cheung Says:

    To Werew:
    yes, consumers have been screwed in other systems. But as you even acknowledge, those systems reformed in response. Is this the FIRST time consumers have been screwed in China? If not, and the necessary reforms did not occur to prevent the current scandal, then it does stand to reason that there is something uniquely faulty about the current Chinese system that is a barrier to effective reform. I wonder what that uniqueness could be….
    I agree “wait and see” is not unreasonable. But I’m not holding my breath.

  29. EugeneZ Says:

    In 2004, there was a huge scandal in China related to baby formula, called “Big Head” babies, although not well publicized in the west, I was living in China then. Good thing we brought our own Infamil formula from the US so that my daughter grew up healthy. Wen Jiabao apologized, and officials were fired.

    Last year, melamine was found in pet food which was exported to the US market, there was an international outrage, and the government again apologized, fired officials, swore that they would clean things up. Again, keep in mind that the use of melamine in milk and milk power is a well known industry practice for years, why did not they stop it ?

    The political system is one single most important reason why China can not make as much progress in many areas as it would otherwise could have. Progress will be made, but will it be made at the rate in line with the potential of this grear nation?

  30. admin Says:

    “the use of melamine in milk and milk power is a well known industry practice for years.”

    Could you please provide more info on this?

  31. Steve Says:

    I’m a little surprised that this style of satire is being criticized by other Chinese since I get these sent to me all the time by my friends in China. After the Sichuan earthquake we had the “Four Basics”:
    Reinforcement bars basically absent
    Transportation basically by foot
    Communication basically by shouting
    Excavation basically by hand
    Then more recently there were “The Four Clears and the Four Unclears”:
    Why hold a meeting? — Unclear
    But who sits in what seat? — Very clear
    Who brought which gifts? — Unclear
    But who brought no gift? — Very clear
    Whose work has been good? — Unclear
    But who will be promoted? — Very clear
    Who went to bed with the leader? — Unclear
    But what was done there? — Very clear
    Isn’t satire just exaggeration for humor’s sake? Just as impressionists take a physical or verbal trait and exaggerate it to get a laugh, it seems to me that Chinese humor is similar. I find it very witty and love the play on words.

    Joel, I agree with you that this makes the Chinese people look better in the eyes of the rest of the world. It’s like a miniature version of the “Daily Show” where they can make fun of their own leaders. But I think your second point is even more apropos, presenting the image of perfection to foreigners. I ran across this all the time in China, Taiwan, Korea and Japan. The business visitor is given the royal treatment, everything is terrific, all the people are highly competent, etc., even among visitors from another branch of the same company. Then they are wined and dined and karaoke’d all night long and walk away with a wonderful impression, however false. I’d have to take them aside and give them a realistic assessment of where that branch was in terms of development and explain to them that what they were seeing was cultural, since I hadn’t run across it on other continents.

    Chinayouren, if I understood you correctly, I had a completely different experience in Shanghai. Not only did my friends and colleagues have a sense of humor, they were hilarious! I don’t think I’ve ever laughed so much in my life as I did those nights we’d get out and just blast whatever target was available. Shanghainese love to get around a table and just bust each other’s balls all night long; reminded me of growing up near NY City where we did the same thing, so I felt really comfortable with them. However, I was very careful not to criticize their government or culture since I felt it was not my place and that I was a guest in their country. I would just ask questions and let them do the criticizing. When they put me on the spot, I would give the diplomatic answer and try to come at it from a completely different direction, which seemed to keep everyone from being defensive.

    EugeneZ, I’ve often wondered the same thing. Why would a country with such an imbalance in lifestyle between city and country, and between rich and poor spend so much on the Olympics and a space program? It’s like they are trying to legitimize their rule but I would think the best way to do that is by raising the overall living standard. For me, until you can safely drink the tap water, you are still a third world country and need to spend the money on infrastructure and not unnecessary projects. It’s like your wedding, a wonderful time to remember forever, and the next day back to real life.

    S.K. Cheung, that emphasis on low cost also used to drive me crazy. The Chinese people haven’t yet discovered the difference between low initial cost and true cost. I had the hardest time convincing our salesmen there that selling is all about establishing value over time, whether using increased production, decreased maintenance or other factors, and that offering a low initial price isn’t true salesmanship at all. But I feel that is starting to change. Chinese tourists have taken overseas trips with the cheapest tour operator and found they got what they paid for, and now are beginning to demand more. Other industries are beginning to pay top dollar for better capital equipment so their manufacturing processes can compete worldwide. Chinese are demanding and getting higher quality products for themselves and for their companies. The people are justly furious about this milk scandal and haven’t been shy to demand the system changes to never let it happen again. It is one thing for a few pets to die, quite another when it’s your only child.

    I have a lot of faith in the Chinese people and feel the system will get better as time goes on. Remember, if the melamine scandal had happened in Laos, I doubt it would have even been reported in the media. Because China has become the world’s manufacturing center, problems are magnified well beyond its borders.

  32. S.K. Cheung Says:

    To Steve:
    excellent post, thanks for that. Sometimes I wonder if the CCP is more interested in bettering the lives of CHinese, vs making them feel better about their lives. As you say, yes the Olympics and spacewalk must make Chinese feel all warm and fuzzy inside, but then they have to boil their water to drink it.

  33. TonyP4 Says:

    In many parts of our world, we need to boil the water to drink it. No big deal unless we’re spoiled in US.

    The extreme example is Mao wanted you feel you’re the first-class citizen of the world (no internet and TV dish at that time and he can ‘cover the sky with one hand’ or ‘put a bamboo wall around China’) while you’re starving to death. I like how some cartoonist portrays this scene. Haha.

    Just ran into a YouTube clipping that has nothing to do with this topic but I find it so interesting and cannot resist not to share. I’ve read the full text long time ago, but now it has pictures.


  34. Virginia Says:

    Hello Chinese bloggers – can you help me with some information?

    I noticed this panel discussion – happening today (10/24) here in California, at UC Irvine at the “Public Spheres, Blogospheres” conference.

    Can you tell me your opinions of The China Beat blog?

    does The China Beat accurately report on China?

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