China launches image campaign

Beijing, July 15:

Stung by product safety scandals, Beijing is waging its own version of a corporate public relations campaign to repair China’s battered brand name, an effort punctuated by the execution of a corrupt former drug regulator.

Last week, Beijing’s propaganda machine trumpeted decisions to tighten standards for toothpaste makers and food processors and to create a symbol to attach to food exports that pass quality inspections.

But can Beijing restore consumer trust after a series of recalls and warnings in the US, Latin America and Asia targeting faulty tires, toys containing lead, drug-laced seafood, tainted pet food ingredients, toxic toothpaste and other hazardous goods? Yes, though not yet, analysts say. They say Beijing faces a long struggle to assure consumers it has made basic chan-ges needed to enforce safety in its sprawling export industries.

“They’ve taken very strong public stances,” said William Hess, chief China analyst for the consulting firm Global Insight.

“But in reality people are very skeptical of the overall capabilities of the regulatory regime. So I think more quantifiable steps are necessary in that area before people’s confidence will be restored.”

Exports are a cornerstone of China’s sizzling economy.

Exports in June surged by 27.1 per cent compared with the same month last year to $103.2 billion. That boosted total exports for the first half of this year to $547.6 billion, a 27.6 increase over the year-earlier period.