CER goes on a diet
Several food product companies reported good news out of China this week: Yum! Brands raised its forecasts for 2012 profit on the back of strong growth in China, while Nestle received approval to acquire a 60% stake in Chinese candy maker Hsu Fu Chi International (HSFU.SGX), reassuring would-be foreign investors that not all Chinese snack makers have a mysterious connection with national security. The week was not so merry for Coca-Cola, which was accused of poisoning a child in northern China’s Jilin province with a suspiciously named beverage, Minute Maid Pulpy Super Milky juice drink. Perhaps consumers neglected to heed the warning printed clearly on the label: “Do Not Taunt Pulpy Super Milky juice drink. Pregnant women, the elderly and children under 10 should avoid prolonged exposure to Pulpy Super Milky juice drink.” Apparently overlooking the fact that it was manufacturing pulpy milk, Coke denied that the product had any quality issues – but not before its brand was degraded all over the country. The poisoning was certainly a tragedy, and Coca-Cola should be investigated and potentially prosecuted; however, the story was also emblematic of the Chinese media’s ongoing frenzy for the ills of foreign firms. Whether it was Wal-Mart selling poser pork in Chongqing, Johnson Controls’ lead leaks in Shanghai, or an Apple supplier pumping out pollutants, xenophobes have certainly had plenty of food for thought this fall. That’s hardly a coincidence; as tensions mount in China, foreign firms offer a handy scapegoat for populist ire. But then again, this strategy is hardly confined to China. Unfortunately for fans of analytical thinking, the US only knows how to whistle one tune when it comes to China.
China happy green times
It’s always tough to admit you’re wrong. Usually sobbing apologies pour forth only after Bob Saget goes all-out Full House, delivering a firm-but-sympathetic-and-profound talk about the meaning of friendship, life and love. Beijing’s environmental panjandrums were also weeping this week, though that probably had more to do with the acid rain equivalent of snow than Bob Saget’s soothing demeanor. Crazy bad pollution in the capital pitted Zhongnanhai’s weibo air quality feed (“lightly polluted”) against the US embassy’s Twitter feed (“beyond index”) along with locals possessing the senses of sight, smell, and/or taste. Such an unstable mixture of the environment, social media, and government credibility is forecast to eventually explode into a Thomas Friedman metaphor, potentially injuring thousands.
China happy green times marched on undaunted in South Africa, where China’s delegation to this year’s UN climate talks shocked the world by saying China would agree to binding emissions targets – provided a series of nearly impossible demands are met, and “even then you people [environmental activists] are gonna have to get on your knees and beg.” Which is what China’s solar industry appears to be doing; A recent report argues that (surprise, surprise) they’re hemorrhaging money faster than a princeling in a gaudy Beijing nightclub, and relying on cheap funding to foot the bill. ICBC has reportedly flown Bob Saget to Shanghai, “for just an old-fashioned heart-to-heart.” Godspeed, Bob.