China needs new enforcement incentives over food safety

China Food SafetyReuters is reporting on a new proposal in China to pay up to a 300,000 RMB (just under $50,000 USD) reward for those that inform on food safety violations. This is the precursor to a series of laws to strengthen food safety and enforcement expected over the next few months. Unfortunately, this will do nothing to abate the ongoing catastrophe that is China’s food safety system. No matter how strict the laws and regulations, enforcement always comes down to the willingness and ability of those tasked with the responsibility. Enforcement will only occur consistently and fairly by dealing with the rampant corruption at the local level of the CCP.

Much of the corruption at the local level can be firmly blamed on the promotion and supervision system of the CCP. Without changes in this system, there can never be any real progress in the enforcement of food safety laws (or any laws) inside China. There are three core areas within the CCP promotion and supervision system requiring immediate attention.

1) The one up (or one down) promotion and oversight system;

2) GDP growth accounting for at least 50% of local Party member contracts;

3) Patronage and relationships with your direct supervisors being important than any law or Party rules;

The one up/down system of supervision, combined with the patronage system, leave employees with a skewed set of incentives. They cannot be promoted or protected without the support of their direct supervisor. This creates an environment where employees must do practically anything they can to stay on the good side of their bosses. This includes unwillingly taking part in corrupt practices and seeking economic growth at all costs. In addition, many of the worst food safety offenders are the largest employers in their region, and in many cases also owned in some way by the local or even provincial government. This leaves local Party bosses doing anything and everything they can to protect their cash cow. Employees of these Party bosses have no choice but to follow their supervisors wishes or risk career stagnation, demotion or, even worse, imprisonment.

Therefore, while 300,000 RMB may seem like a large sum, most people capable of reporting such violations will not do so. The incentive of a one time cash payment is not enough to overcome the incentives to participate in the current corrupt practices. Low ranking Party members must know their careers and lives will not be ruined by turning in companies (and therefore their bosses) for food safety or other violations.

Originally posted in

Categories: Health & Environment

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