When the emperor is far away . . .

Bob Moon Dec 6, 2007

TEXT OF STORY

Scott Jagow: Another thing on the president’s agenda: the safety of Chinese toys and food and other exports. That’ll be a big topic at U.S.-China talks in Washington next week. But for China, talking and doing could be far apart. More from Bob Moon.


Bob Moon: There’s an old Chinese proverb that helps explain the trouble Beijing faces in fixing China’s product safety problems:

WILLIAM GAMBLE: “The mountains are high, and the emperor is far away.”

In other words, William Gamble of Emerging Market Strategies doubts Beijing’s political reach in the far-flung provinces. He applauds the Bush Administration for leaning on China to mend its ways.

But Gamble is skeptical the communist regime can change deeply entrenched corruption.

GAMBLE: It’s just too profitable to stop it, because that would cause all sorts of other problems. And a lot of these revenues go to state-owned companies in the provinces, and those support the local state governments, including members of the Communist Party.

Barring a new government, he contends that eventually, the marketplace will need to decide:

GAMBLE: This is a problem that is not going to change in China. I think American companies ought to understand that and make other provisions for finding a place that’s safe to make toys.

Along with a lot of other goods that, Gamble says, Chinese provincial leaders aren’t legally accountable for.

I’m Bob Moon for Marketplace.

We’re here to help you navigate this changed world and economy.

Our mission at Marketplace is to raise the economic intelligence of the country. It’s a tough task, but it’s never been more important.

In the past year, we’ve seen record unemployment, stimulus bills, and reddit users influencing the stock market. Marketplace helps you understand it all, will fact-based, approachable, and unbiased reporting.

Generous support from listeners and readers is what powers our nonprofit news—and your donation today will help provide this essential service. For just $5/month, you can sustain independent journalism that keeps you and thousands of others informed.