July 3, 2013, by Tony Hong

Life in China can be a gamble

By Nancy Ng Chai Lian,

Second Year Student, MSci Contemporary Chinese Studies, The University of Nottingham UK.

Reading a blog about a comment like this, “When I open my window I can get free smoke and now when I open my tap I can get free pork chop soup”.  This comment is about dead pigs in their thousands found floating in the Huangpu river. Followed by another comment that “the soup is getting thicker”, not only are pigs being found but ducks inside sacks neatly bound are also making their way into the Huangpu river. 

Having been here for eights months, I am losing weight – about 10kgs – not because I am on diet but my eating pattern has changed. Firstly, I tried to cut down eating street food – though it’s very tempting – yet I’m not too sure of the oil they use. For one who loves hotpot the recent scandal about processing of lamb meat from duck, fox and mice, caused me to refrain from lamb’s meat in China. Now, I eat lots of veggies, still you are not sure what chemicals are being used for fertilizing. How scary!        

About the baby milk powder scandal, one would think the government would have got this problem sorted out. In truth most people are skeptical about the baby milk powder and they have to go through hooks and crooks to buy it from Hong Kong. When I went to Hong Kong in February, I stayed in Sheung Shui and lately it has become a place for illegal activities like transporting essential goods and baby milk powder to China.  Every morning the queue can be like a mile long and the Hong Kong police force has to be extra vigilant because of the hordes created by the daily exodus to and from Hong Kong and Shenzhen. Hong Kong is deliberately putting a stiff penalty on those being caught carrying more than two cans of baby milk powder.  We heard of the case where even in the UK a Chinese shopper was thrown out of a supermarket after he swept clean the shelves and carting away a hundred cans of baby milk powder.         

One would have to believe that with all the various measure imposed there will be some peace to this saga but just a few days ago, I heard TV news reports that so called businessman have discovered a way to fool the people. Instead of selling local brand milk powder, they have diverted the production to New Zealand. Registering an office there and pretending they are importing milk powder from China then them repackage and labeling being a product of New Zealand.  Since there is no quality control in the way how this milk powder is produced it is very obvious that crooks always find ways and means to beat the system. Until moral principles are being held there is no way in believing that this kind of food scam is going to cease.

Recently, I went to a scenic spot in Ningbo and after having climbed countless steps to the Five Dragon Waterfall, I finally got a taste of spring water – fresh from the mountain. No wonder one has to pay 50RMB for entrance fee because in China, anything natural is not free and one has to pay dearly to see a bit of beauty or to sniff a bit of fresh pure air. What we take for granted in England like natural beauty and fresh air is almost luxury here.      

Sometimes I wonder what can I safely do? Like when I do my morning jog I was told that too much jogging may result in TB. With thick smog instead of feeling refreshed I may be inhaling CO2 emissions and the rain may be acid rain. With the H7N9 around, I am behaving like the Chinese – just as long as it is not happening to those around us, we don’t want to know too much. The Sichuan earthquake has seen many deaths and wounded yet, we are not as concerned as we heard about it from far away. Perhaps, Chinese people have developed a defense mechanism against all these woes. Life is a gamble here. If you don’t eat you’ll die but if you eat you may also die. So just close your eyes and trust in ‘survival of the fittest’!        

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