The melamine dairy scandal is now an international crisis. The chemical that has now made over 6,000 babies ill on the mainland may have tainted milk in Taiwan (CNN), as well as Bangladesh, Yemen, Gabon, Burundi and Burma (BBC). Meanwhile, the cadres are admitting that more than on in five domestic milk producers have poisoned milk, including some given the Communist seal of approval after the last milk scandal in 2004 (BBC).
How could this happen? Well, one of the prime culprits (Sanlu) was run by Tian Wenhua. Wenhua had another job, too: "secretary of the corporation committee of the Communist Party" (Wall Street Journal).
Can you say, "corruption?"
One need not be a read of this space to know that graft in endemic and widespread in the Chinese Communist regime. It is so bad that the Chinese Mafia (known as triads) and the Chinese Communist Party are becoming indistinguishable in many areas (Independent). What is not so well-known is why this has happened.
A totalitarian regime like the Chinese Communist Party is difficult to maintain in a nation of over 1.3 billion people. Not even a determined and bloodthirsty group in Beijing can do it all by themselves. They need local enablers and enforcers in all of the regions and provinces. Moreover, they need something to keep said enablers and enforcers on their side.
A start is making sure no public office can come with Communist Party membership; the regime has stuck to that for nearly sixty years. The real trick, however, came after Mao died, when Deng Xiaoping and his minions came up with the perfect alternative to socialism - corporatism.
Most economists and politicians ignore corporatism as a model, but for the CCP, it was a godsend. The notion of "private" corporations and the state basically working cooperatively as one unit was the perfect beginning for what the cadres really wanted: the benefits of a private sector without losing government control. The cadres switched gears economically, shifting from labor-oriented mandates to business oriented mandates. In effect, the CCP itself became a super-corporation, with only Party members (or their children, other relatives, spouses, or mistresses) allowed to "own" business (those that refused to do the Party's bidding would suddenly find their "private" firms seized, while they themselves were jailed).
Corporatism was prominent in much of the 19th century, but largely collapsed when it became clear that a corporate-controlled regime had trouble regulating the practices of the puppeteers. For the CCP, however, no such concerns are necessary. In fact, the more corrupt the "private" firms are, the more dependent they are upon the CCP to survive. Thus, corruption is no longer an effect of the Communist regime; it has become an instrument of the Communist regime.
That instrument is hardly limited to bad corporate actors. Local cadres have been using the Party card for decades to acquire ill-gotten gains at the expense of their own people, all the while proclaiming loyalty to the Beijing crew. In response, Beijing has no choice but to back their local malefactors, so long as the problem isn't so widespread as to risk a revolt - as the milk scandal is now.
Perhaps if the democratic world has a better understanding of its own economic history, it would be able to spot the signs of corrupt corporatism, and steer clear of the Pollyanaish nonsense that surrounds the "engagement" viewpoint (Asia Times, Epoch Times, Taiwan News via NRO - Media Blog, and the Washington Times). With any luck, the reality of the regime's depravity and deceitfulness would open people's eyes about the cadres' Korean colony (One Free Korea and Washington Times), their overall foreign policy (Weekly Standard), and the Long Arm of Lawlessness (Epoch Times). There would, at last, be the universal realization that the antics of the Chinese Communist Party are not the exceptions to the rules, but the rules themselves (for what it's worth, the message does seem to be clear among the Chinese people themselves - Epoch Times).
There have simply been too many stories of graft, theft, land seizures, and other perfidy to just assume it all away as a series of isolated incidents. In fact, far from being able to fight corruption, the Chinese Communist Party is now dependent upon corruption, and cannot survive without it. From local cadres to Beijing leaders, from "private" thieves to their public-office-holding patrons, the Chinese Communist Party lives off its members' infinite and unchallenged license to steal (without getting caught).
It was once said that the Roman Empire survived as long as it did by offering the people "bread and circuses." The Communists are stealing the bread, so they have only "circuses." That is what fuels the radical nationalism and the demand for overseas appeasement and silence. In time, that will also fail, and the Chinese people will rise up and take their country back.
The only question is this: how many millions of dollars and people will be lost before then?