Made in China = Paranoia?

March 17, 2008 at 7:49 am

ALERT! ALERT! Throw out your Chinese pork buns! Burn your kid’s toys! Do it or DIE!

That’s the message spreading across the globe about Chinese exports. In the U.S., it started with a major toy recall after discovering parts were detailed with lead-based paint. Now in Japan they’ve found pesticides mixed into imported meat buns (nikuman) and dumplings (gyoza). Mainstream media has been quick to jump on this international scandal and consumers are equally on their toes, scouring their cabinets for anything that looks remotely “Made in China.”

gyoza.gif

It’s a scary thing to realize you’ve just ingested fertilizer which is why I try as much as possible to eat homegrown vegetables and organics from the local health food store. But when I’m bombarded with news about this so-called Chinese peril, I can’t help but to worry for how we Japanese and Americans will start treating Chinese people.

The other day I found my Japanese friend rummaging through a basket of condiments he’d accumulated from weekly trips to Yoshinoya. “This one’s Chinese, too…ugh,” he muttered to himself as he tossed each red pepper flake packet into the trash.

Other friends who’ve heeded media warnings have boycotted China altogether, despite the fact that only a handful products have been cited. Instead of being wary of certain products from certain manufacturers, we’ve learned to nurture caution xenophobically.

Back in the ‘90s when Japanese cars were outselling the U.S., I’d get a lot of evil stares from white-bread Americans because I looked like the enemy. Luckily I drove a Chevy, so that threw them for a loop. Other Asians weren’t as lucky. One guy named Vincent Chin was bludgeoned to death in 1982 by a bat carried by two laid-off auto workers; They thought he was the root of their misfortune.

Especially in a homogenous society like Japan, it’s easy to develop an “us” vs. “them” mentality. The line between the two is drawn thickly. So it scares me when news reports seem to accuse an entire population of wrongdoing.

Sure I worry about how my Chinese pork buns are made, but I also worry about the manure-tainted spinach recalls from Northern California. Though that doesn’t mean I’ll start boycotting everything north of the Sierras.

So unless there’s a food recall, I’ll take my chances on my store-bought pork buns. They’re mighty tasty, despite the freezer burn. (^_^)/

Himawari

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Entry filed under: Japanese Culture, Japanese Foods.

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