china's dirty reputation

Jeff Yang has a really interesting piece in the Washington Post on all the recent furor over dirty, tainted, poisonous food... from China: A Taste of Racism in the Chinese Food Scare. There's been a lot of talk and portrayal of China as a foul, contaminated nation, serving foul, contaminated food, and exporting foul, contaminated food to our clean, righteous United States. This rhetoric, of course, is nothing new. We've always had to deal with jokes and punchlines about the cleanliness of Chinese restaurants, along with the usual cat-eating jokes. Hell, it goes as far back as that classic schoolyard taunt, "Me Chinese, me play joke..." You know the rest.

But lately there seems to be a resurgence in the China-bashing (and no coincidence, a looming fear of China's economic might). You've got news agencies running with stories about all the gross, nasty things Chinese people do when it comes to food preparation. Like this one, about Chinese pork buns apparently "made from cardboard." Or this one, about a bunch of cat lovers mobilizing to save a truckload of cats from being eaten in China. And now, we've got this racist 'China Free' marketing campaign. A U.S. health food company has announced that it will label its products "China-Free" to ease concerns about contamination: U.S. company to label health foods 'China-Free'. How long before it becomes appropriate to apply the 'China-Free' slogan to other aspects of American goodness?

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