China moves to boost public trust

0 CommentsPrint E-mail Xinhua, March 13, 2011
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When Hu Siyun, a new dad and a migrant worker, walked into a supermarket in Changzhou city in East China's Jiangsu province, he did not hesitate to pick up a foreign brand of infant formula, instead of a domestic one.

The infant formula Hu bought is Dumex, which is priced at 227.7 yuan ($34.63) per 900 grams in the supermarket. A domestic brand formula was sold at 60 yuan per 400 grams.

Hu has to pay an extra 371 yuan for an imported brand each month, which is quite costly for people with 3,000 yuan of monthly income like himself.

"I'll be very happy if there is a home-made infant formula which is both trustworthy and cheaper," he said.

Most of the home-made infant formula sits in the corners of the shelves of the supermarket, while the foreign brands or brands from joint ventures are in more conspicuous places.

This epitomizes the embarrassing situation China's dairy industry is facing.

The dairy industry was severely harmed by the melamine-tainted infant formula scandal in 2008. The incident tarnished the image of the country's dairy producers and a big share of the Chinese market has embraced foreign competitors.

The imports of dairy products soared from 120,600 tons in 2008 to 597,000 tons in 2009 as local infant formula became unpopular.

Apart from the dairy industry, an absence of credibility also haunted other sectors.

Carrefour and Wal-Mart stores in China were fined 9.5 million yuan for deceptive pricing last month.

On Feb 1, the Chinese government revoked, for the first time, a national scientific award given to Li Liansheng, a former professor in Xi'an Jiaotong University, due to academic fraud.

And frequent phone fraud cases, which typically involve random phone calls made to dupe victims into sending money to fraudulent accounts, have made Chinese citizens suspicious of virtually everything.

Against this backdrop, "credibility" became a much-discussed term among participants at the ongoing annual sessions of China's national legislature and the top political advisory body.

Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao said in a government work report delivered at the NPC session that the country "will strengthen the development of a credibility system, and put in place relevant systems, laws and regulations. "

Wang Zhongwu, a sociologist with Shandong University in eastern China, said that "credibility has for a long time been considered more as an ethic, rather than a social norm or regulation in China."

"The belief is proven to be not very satisfactory since a loss of credibility remains serious at present," he said.

The Chinese government has decided to promote a credibility system in the food industry that began in January this year.

As part of this system, government departments would offer guidance to 4,000 companies and all infant formula manufacturers in the country to set up a credibility management system on a trial basis. They would also test a system for certification.

"I think credibility is not only an ethical issue, but also a responsibility," said Chang Dechuan, president of the Qingdao Port Group Co Ltd and a deputy to the National People's Congress (NPC).

"A manufacturer should bear the responsibility for preventing fraud, counterfeiting or substandard products," he said.

Top Chinese leaders have reiterated the significance of credibility for both the government and society.

During an online chat with Internet users last month, Wen Jiabao said that problems in two major factors -- credibility of the society and public trust of the government -- are hindering the progress of the entire society.

"The society would stride forward a big step once the two factors are handled properly," he said.

Song Xinfang, an NPC deputy who proposed to build a credibility system for the country's companies and society, said, "The people's loss of trust in the government could bring the greatest harm."

"If the trust crisis could not be handled well, it would intensify social contradictions," he said.

Realizing the problem and its potential risks, the Chinese government has responded in this year's work report to issues of public concern such as closing the income gap, the standardization of the use of official cars, adjustments on income distribution, and the stabilization of real estate, grain prices and food safety.

"The government work report is rich in details this year. It even specifies the minimum purchase prices of grains," Song Xinfang said.

"It shows the government's sincerity in winning trust from the people," he said.

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