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Paying a high price for bribery

A cook prepares food at a street-side food stall in Beijing.

TEXT OF INTERVIEW

Doug Krizner: The former head of China's food and drug administration has been executed for taking bribes. He took money from drug companies in exchange for approving products that turned out to be fake. Scott Tong is our reporter in Shanghai. Scott, is the government using this execution to send a message?

Scott Tong: I think the bigger message is to the regulators in China. Bribery is a big problem reportedly in China and in the big cases the government does not go after the bribe givers, it's the bribe takers, the people who are regulating the industry. What it doesn't seem to be is a message to the Western public. It's seen as bad PR to really publicize an execution where the Western public might be shocked.

Krizner: So we had this briefing from representatives of five Chinese state agencies that perform food and drug safety work. What are they saying about changes in oversight?

Tong: The first thing they talked about is how they work together. There has been an increasingly louder complaint that these are agencies that don't work together, they don't know the jurisdictions. The other thing that's happened here is the government has taken officials from various departments and rotated them around so hopefully they won't be as susceptible, they won't be as close to the industries they regulate.

Krizner: Now practically speaking, won't it be difficult for the Chinese to make meaningful changes in the way they conduct business?

Tong: Well there are a whole lot of what people consider good ideas emanating from Beijing, whether it's pollution, whether it's food safety, and now comes the long, painful process of implementing these things and they get the pushback just like Washington gets pushback from the states. If there's a sense that a factory needs to be shut down, the governor doesn't want to lose those jobs. Same kind of dynamic happens in China.

Krizner: Hey Scott, thanks very much for talking to us.

Tong: Thanks Doug.

Krizner: Our Scott Tong in Shanghai

About the author

Scott Tong is a correspondent for Marketplace’s sustainability desk, with a focus on energy, environment, resources, climate, supply chain and the global economy.
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