New Internationalist

China Panic

Issue 409

It’s official – according to new NI columnist Anna Chen – 2008 isn’t just the Year of the Rat and the Beijing Olympics. It’s also China Panic Year.

‘China – leading the world in toy manufacturing.’

However you choose to read it, that’s not an advertising slogan Mattel’s likely to be using any time soon. The Dim Child’s Best Friend had to recall two million toys made in China due to their illegal lead content, including Barbie pet and furniture playsets. That’ll teach the Plastic Glamourpuss to put lifestyle before study.

If parents want to alleviate their heavy metal anxiety before their offspring discover the joys of headbanging, how about a Barbie library playset featuring real books with words and sentences and everything? Or a Barbie environmental protest playset where you scrawl your own placards, shave Barbie’s head and stick a stud through her navel? No. Didn’t think so. Who needs sinister lead-encrusted death-toys to damage children’s brains, anyway? That’s TV’s job.

It’s official. 2008 isn’t just the Year of the Rat and the Beijing Olympics. It’s also China Panic Year. The sleeping dragon awakens, so everyone’s trying to shoot it down before it wipes the gunk out of its eyes. The British media keeps pressing the ‘filth and pestilence’ button with SARS, Foot and Mouth and Asian Flu. America gets poisoned toothpaste and a pet food scare.

...the colonialist subtext is that we fiendish orientals don’t value human life the way cuddly westerners do.

Legitimate criticism is that, to keep prices down and foreign trade perky, China allows no trade unions. Maybe they use Wal-Mart advisers. You want your consumer goodies cheap? Then welcome to the free market, and its ugly sisters: cost-cutting and corruption.

China executes more citizens than the rest of the world put together: shameful, brutal and a sign of defeat. But seek factual reportage and cool analysis and you find the Cold War language of the 1960s. I don’t recall China being responsible for the deaths of a million Iraqis, but the colonialist subtext is that we fiendish orientals don’t value human life the way cuddly westerners do.

The protester who breached security in order to place smog masks on the Terracotta Warriors at the British Museum must’ve forgotten just who’s been pumping carbon into the atmosphere since the Industrial Revolution. Let alone who’s encouraging the rainforests to be destroyed in order to grow palm oil to keep their Humvees on the road.

Expect China Panic to increase in 2008 with the Beijing Olympics shoving the nation’s superior economy down everyone’s throat and turning us all into green-eyed monsters. It must be terrible growing up believing you were destined to rule the world forever, and then discovering you don’t.

Anna Chen is a writer, actor, poet, singer, songwriter, comic, cineaste and martial artist.

Blog: ‘Madam Miaow says…’ http://madammiaow.blogspot.com

Website: www.annachen.co.uk

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