Category Archives: regulations

“Architect: Beijing airport damage not design flaw”

Remember all the incredible infrastructure projects and architectural masterpieces Beijing threw together for the Olympics? Someone should write a book about what’s happened to them since then, what with Bird’s Nest designer Ai Weiwei facing down the government and now reports of problems with Terminal Three of the Beijing airport caused by… wind. Yep:

One of the architects behind the busiest airport in Asia said Thursday that substandard materials or installation — not design flaws — are likely to blame for wind blowing parts of the roof off Beijing’s three-year-old Terminal 3.

The airport is the result of a frenetic Chinese building boom that has produced numerous architectural marvels, though some of the iconic new projects have been hit by quality and safety problems.

State media say passengers reported seeing bits of white and yellow roofing material blowing across runways and through parts of the $2.8 billion terminal on Tuesday. In statements issued earlier this week, the airport said no one was hurt and operations were not affected.

“If the products provided by the suppliers were not up to their highest standards, or if the individual items were not installed properly, then this kind of thing could happen,” said Shao Weiping, an architect with one of the firms that collaborated on the structure, the Beijing Architectural Design and Research Institute.

I don’t know anything about Mr. Shao, but given the constant flow of problems caused by poor installation that really wouldn’t surprise me. Some huge sum of money is blocked off for a project, put in a bag, and then passed from person to person until eventually arriving in the hands of the actual construction company, which barely has enough money for materials after skimming their own bit off the top. If the regulators come by at all, it’s just to pick up their bribe.

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Filed under architecture, bribery, corruption, regulations

“Corruption may undo China’s economic miracle”

From Victor Shih, a great FT blog post about exactly how bribery figures into construction projects great and small here:

According to details released by the Chinese media, the Jing’an government invited bids for a project to insulate a teachers’ dormitory. Not surprisingly, a company wholly owned by the Jing’an District Government, the Jing’an Construction Company, “won” the bid, but then gave the Rmb30m project to its wholly owned subsidiary Jiayi Company, which had little experience in this kind of project.

After paying government officials bribes to obtain this contract, Jiayi proceeded to farm out various aspects of this project to sub-contractors who paid Jiayi management the highest bribes.

In some cases, the work was further sub-contracted to foremen, who also had to pay sub-contractors bribes. At every level, guanxi and the amount of bribes determined who received the contract, not quality, safety or track record. In the end, a welder, hired precisely because he was inexperienced and therefore cheap, accidentally dropped his torch, which set off the fire.

Given the dominance of the state at every level of government, government officials learned long ago that the best way to make some money on the side was to form their own companies, which “bid for” and often won lucrative contracts from the government and from state-owned enterprises.

In many cases, these parasitic companies do not do the contracted work themselves but instead farm out the work to the highest bidders. The owners of these connected companies, often officials themselves or their close friends and relatives, can make money without doing anything. It is rent-seeking in its most naked form.

As this “unspoken rule” way of business proliferates to every corner of the Chinese economy, quality, safety, and basic trust all go out the window, replaced by the subcontractors who could pay the highest bribes.

Although a small number of people are enriched by the system, the vast majority suffers from its consequences. This corrupt system of subcontracting may be partially responsible for the high-speed train crash last month; it is also responsible for the prevalence of radioactive material in China’s homes, as noted by an earlier piece on beyondbrics.

It likely is partially culprit to the thousands of industrial accidents and food and product safety issues that crop up in China every year.

Nothing a little transparency and rule of law wouldn’t (at least) partially clear up, but the Communist Party seems convinced that those are bourgeois imperialist concepts designed to destroy China, so they’ll continue to stalwartly oppose them for now.

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Filed under bribery, corruption, public health, regulations

“China arrests 2,000 people in food safety crackdown”

BBC has the details. I wonder how many people in total are involved in unsafe food production; I’m pretty sure 2,000 is the tip of the iceberg.

China has arrested 2,000 people and shut down nearly 5,000 businesses in a clampdown on illegal food additives, after a series of food safety scares.

The campaign was launched in April after scandals from glow-in-the-dark meat to buns injected with dye to make them look like a more expensive kind.

Nearly six million food-related businesses have been investigated.

Police have also destroyed a series of “underground” sites for the illegal manufacture of such food products.

A Food Safety Commission statement also said government agencies across the country would continue the drive, and that anyone caught breaking the law would “be severely punished”.

Food safety scandals in China have badly damaged consumer confidence in recent years, particularly in the dairy industry.

The Chinese authorities enacted strict policies to ensure food safety after infant milk formula containing melamine killed at least six babies and made 300,000 children ill in 2008.

The industrial chemical had been added to dairy products to make them seem high in protein.

It led to product recalls across the globe, and further damaged China’s reputation for producing safe and reliable products.

Earlier this year, China’s quality inspection agency shut down nearly half of the country’s 1,176 dairies as part of a campaign to clean up the dairy industry.

We’ll see if this slows down the recent torrent of food safety problems China has witnessed.

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Filed under Beijing does a Good Thing, food safety, regulations

“China to Offer Rewards for Food Safety Informers”

This might work… but I’d bet it’s more likely that it’ll just turn into a huge mess. Via China Digital Times:

“Government departments at all levels must set up dedicated funds for a reward system for reporting on food safety,” the official Xinhua news agency cited a government directive as saying.

Rewards will be paid out if investigations prove the veracity of the tip-offs, it added.

Those who work for people or companies which adulterate food products are especially encouraged to participate, the report said.

Governments must also make sure they protect the identities of the tipsters to prevent “revenge attacks,” and will punish those who slander others with false reports or provide false information to get the rewards, Xinhua added.

First off… this is pretty much the government throwing it’s hands up and saying it just can’t be bothered to do food safety the right way, isn’t it? But sure, crowdsourcing can be a good strategy. I think it runs into problems here considering how tightly money and power are wrapped around each other here. If a report of food adulteration comes in against an operation that has connections to people in the government, or to gangs which in turn have connections to people in the government, or against someone with enough money to bribe the inspectors to look the other way and maybe ‘accidentally’ drop the name of the rat at the same time… then we’re back at square one. And that’s not even getting into the potential for abuse here. Good luck.

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Filed under China, food safety, public health, regulations