Operations at Shanghai Husi Food have been suspended by local health authorities on Sunday after reports that this US-owned factory has been reprocessing expired and discarded meat to extend its shelf life.
Husi was supplying meat to KFC, Pizza Hut, McDonald’s and many other US fast food chains in China. Since Sunday, most of these chains have issued announcements that they‘ve halted all uses of Husi supplies in their stores across China.
Food safety has been a hot-button issue in China in recent years, and national scandals of tainted or toxic food hit news headlines frequently. Part of the reason why many US food chains are extremely popular in China is the assumption that they have better food safety due to better quality control. In fact, higher-quality food offers have been part of their marketing pitches in China. Will the current scandal change the deal? Very unlikely.
According to reports from Beijing, lines outside KFC and McDonald’s stores are still long, and empty tables are still hard to find as of Monday. When one custom was asked about why he still ate at McDonald’s after the expired meat scandal, he answered:
“Food safety issues are a fact of life in China. McDonald’s is at least better than Chinese restaurants of similar kind.”
Indeed, comparing to poisonous rice or toxic chemical soaked vegetables, expired meat sounds like the lesser of many evils.
What’s more interesting, many Chinese netizens actually side with these fast food brands, saying they are but trying to fit into a culture that is filled with food safety scandals. The question of why these brands dare to use expired meat in China, but not back in their home countries or in other markets keeps coming up.
While the Chinese media are hyping about the irresponsibility of “these foreign food chains,” many Chinese netizens think that someone else should take the blame.
“If KFC alone has food safety issues in China, then there must be something wrong with KFC. If McDonald’s alone has food safety issues in China, then there must be something wrong with McDonald’s. But if KFC, McDonald’s, Pizza Hut, Subway, Burger King and Starbucks all have food safety issues in China, and only in China, then there must be something wrong with China.” One netizen bitterly commented.
Many joked that it’s like the pot calling the kettle back for China to call out food safety problems at foreign food chains. They believe that a general lack of food safety regulations and the absence of effective and proper supervision are at the root of the problem.
The current scandal was exposed by journalists who went undercover for 2 months. Many netizens couldn’t help but ask: “Where is China’s FDA?”
At the end of the day, Chinese consumers are still going to vote by their feet. “I will continue to eat at McDonald’s or KFC. At least I’ve never had diarrhea after eating there – that’s something even the cafeteria at my university fails to achieve.” One netizen commented.
Walls (of any construction) in China’s villages used to be billboards for the government to promote its many policies, especially the one-child policy, in the absence of a better channel. Slogans that boost the benefits of population control and the use of contraception are very commonly seen in rural China. In today’s Chinese villages, however, wall slogans serve a new master.
“Rushing about away from home doesn’t beat doing Taobao at home.” Such goes a wall slogan in one little village in the coastal province of Shandong.
“Need sales leads? Contact Baidu.” There goes another one in another village.
“To make a good living, get on Taobao immediately.” Yet another one.
Taobao, C2C site under China’s e-commerce giant Alibaba, has made a lot miracles in China, one of which is the empowerment of the country’s rural population with easy-to-set-up online businesses. E-commerce has not only brought convenience and cheap products to China’s urban dwellers, but also an important stream of income to many rural residents.
As of 2013, there are officially 20 “Taobao villages” in China. To be on the list, at least 10% of the village’s households need to be operating online stores, and the total annual village e-commerce revenue must exceed $1.6 million.
The proliferation of e-commerce, or rather, Internet economy, to China’s rural areas has implications that go beyond the mere economics.
First of all, e-commerce provides an easy retreat for those who don’t want to leave their rural hometowns, such as those farmers who’ve lost their lands during the country’s accelerating urbanization, and for those who want to go back to their rural hometowns after being squeezed out of China’s huge, heavily-polluted and super expensive big cities.
Secondly, an enriched rural population plus logistic networks extended to villages may speed up China’s transition to a consumer economy from the current development model that heavily replies on government investment and exports.
Slogans exhorting the one-child policy have stuck on the walls of Chinese villages for decades before gradually fading away. In its place, China’s tech companies have painted a new future for rural China, but it’s going to be tough. The majority of China’s over 600 million Internet users are urban. In a country with 1.3 billion people, there’s a lot more to cover.
"Accumulating wealth depends on hard work. Preserving wealth depends on shopping at JD.com"
"To get rich, build roads first. To shop, search on Baidu first.”
"Operate an online store at home. Keep perfect balance between work and family.”
Outside China Central Television’s headquarter in Beijing, a young and apparently angry wife was smashing a flat screen TV. The reason? Her husband has been staying up late to watch the “beautiful games” in Brazil.
“World Cup or E cup” is a dilemma that many of China’s male football fans have struggled to balance in the past few weeks. This young Beijing lady is only one of the millions of upset wives or girlfriends in China during the 2014 World Cup.
Yesterday in Shanghai, 12 ladies, including a pregnant one, staged an anti-World Cup protest, asking the FIFA to “give back they boyfriends.” They are primarily pissed about two things: 1) their partners neglecting family responsibilities due to late-night game watching; 2) reckless gambling on games.
“We are house-wives. We don’t want to be angry and dissatisfied World Cup-wives.”
Despite the fact that China never had a competitive men’s football team, the country’s football fever never deflated. In fact, even when all the games are taking place after midnight Beijing time, Chinese fans still find ways to enjoy the show in Brazil, such as purchasing fake sick-leave doctor notes. Some companies even adjust working hours to ensure productivity of those who stay up late for games.
In the past few weeks, it’s almost impossible to leave any Chinese news portal sites without noticing options to bet on World Cup games. To anyone who knows China as a country where casinos are illegal except in the former colony Macao, it’d be a big surprise to find out that reported Chinese bets on the 2014 World Cup totaled $642 million already.
But all the fever remains almost male exclusive. It may sound like stereotyping, but professional sports such as football is still a guy thing in China, despite the fact that Chinese sportswomen are just as competitive as their male counterparts, if not more.
More women are picking up football, but most of them are not watching for the sake of the game. One female netizen explained: “I’m only interested in hot football players.” Another shared her reasoning: “I’m watching the World Cup only because I want to be with my boyfriend when he is watching.”
Weeks before the 2014 World Cup, cheat sheets of how to sound like a “true football fan” started to make the rounds on several Chinese social networking sites, giving women tips of how to have an “informed” conversation about football with their partners. One of them starts like this: “Sisters, with these fast facts, you will speak the same language as your football fan boyfriends.”
And to many Chinese men, whether their partners are willing to share, or how much they’d tolerate, their passion of the World Cup, is also a test of love. One husband commented: “[The World Cup] is once every 4 years. If a woman loves her man, she’d let him do whatever he wants during the short period of time.”