September 15, 2004

River Runs Through

The cynical among us knew that some folks would have to be sacrificed at the altar of progress for China to raise its overall standard of living. We were okay with that, as long as it was for the greater good of the motherland. And as long as it doesn't affect us, of course. Unfortunately, such plans usually just end up sacrificing lots of poor folks for naught. It's no surprise to anybody that the massive industrial expansion in China has created polluted nightmares all around. When you dump random shit in the water, people get cancer and die. So for destroying livelihoods, lives, and villages, what are we making here? Some high-tech gizmo, or some fancy chemical, perhaps? Well, it's a chemical, but hardly fancy.

One of the biggest polluters is the Lianhua Gourmet Powder Company, China's largest producer of monosodium glutamate, or MSG, the flavor enhancer. But the company's political influence is so vast that environmental regulators who have tried to challenge the company have done so in vain.

So the catastrophic and painful destruction of an entire river valley, just for MSG?

Under any circumstances, the company's sheer size would translate into significant political clout. But Lianhua, basically, is the government. Lianhua is traded on the Shanghai Stock Exchange, but according to the credit analysis, its majority stockholder is a holding company owned by the Xiangcheng city government.

So for the privilege of making a few bucks the government sells out their own people to death and destitution. Nothing like a little petty greed to destroy a Great Social Experiment. At least the Chinese Microsofties still have it good.

MS China

Posted by mikewang on 10:47 PM