Feb 242010
 

Those of you interested in China’s food industry may want to check out a new paper discussing the current state of China’s retail food sector. The US Foreign Agricultural Service has a great collection of their Global Agricultural Information Network reports (called GAIN Reports). They recently published their new analysis of China’s retail food sector. The review is geared more towards how it affects US producers and exporters, but it has a lot of fascinating detail that will interest any Sinophile as well as China expat. Here are a couple highlights, as discussed on The Packer website (China’s retailers, at least, are fat and happy):

Hypermarkets

Multinational chains such as Carrefour and Wal-Mart benefit from their reputation for offering better quality products than most domestic retailers, thanks to stricter quality control in a country where food safety is a major concern after several disturbing food scandals in recent years. In food products, especially fresh food, hypermarket retailers benefit from better hygiene controls and a higher volume flow rate, and are thus able to ensure better food safety for consumers. As such, an increasing number of Chinese consumers visit hypermarkets instead of independent food stores for grocery shopping. Fresh produce has become an attractive section to draw in Chinese consumers.

New Trends in Retail

Direct sourcing of food and agricultural products from farm cooperatives has been adopted by most retailers in Shanghai and is growing elsewhere. This allows retailers to address consumers‘ concerns about food safety, reduce cost, and possibly improve product quality. On the imported product side, Wal-Mart started to directly source and import U.S. cherries this year. Neighborhood Supermarkets were opened in Shanghai by Carrefour and Tesco this year. These outlets offer low prices and fresh food as their selling points.

Feb 232010
 

I read an intriguing post recently on the Global Times about a Greenpeace investigation into China’s foreign-owned supermarket chains. This Greenpeace “Supermarket List for China” ranked the 15 largest supermarkets based on categories such as pesticides and GM foods. The report had Wal-Mart, Tesco, and Ito-Yokado rank at the bottom of the list, while Carrefour, Hyper Market, and Auchan received more positive comments:

According to Greenpeace China, they assessed 15 major supermarkets in China from three aspects. First is product tracking and control systems, where consumers can trace the supply chain. Secondly, key policies and commitments on reducing pesticide residue and avoiding GMF, especially fresh fruits, vegetables and rice. Thirdly transparency: the more honest companies are, the more they are willing to be supervised by consumers and capable of meeting their commitments.

The excellent website China Corporate Social Responsibilty also discusses this:

Wang Weikang, the food and agriculture project director of Greenpeace, told local media that the supermarkets that rank at the bottom of the list did not take any action in supervising the quality of the food products they sell, nor did they make any promise to improve. According to Wang, Wal-Mart did not provide any information on the questionnaire regarding gradually banning the use of pesticide or committing to no genetically modified food, nor did it provide any of the necessary information on its Chinese website — even though it has already made a commitment to British consumers on not providing genetically modified food. In addition, there is no such information either on the Chinese language website of Ito-Yokado though the information is offered on the Japanese language website of the company.

So far, supermarkets ranked at the bottom of the list have responded saying that they have always abided by the local laws and regulations and have adopted product quality standards that are up to, or higher than, the local government requirements.

Here’s the original Greenpeace article; it’s a PDF file but only in Chinese. I think this type of analysis does have its own agenda but is still helpful, as it brings to the surface a lot of underlying issues regarding food safety in China.

Feb 112010
 

I’ve touched a bit on the state of China’s public health care system; now there’s an outstanding 4-part series from China Healthcare Blog discussing the state of rural health care and how it affects the elderly.

The main issues center on the lack of adequate health care for most rural Chinese; the elderly, with far more need for healthcare, are more vulnerable to this lack of services. Here’s a good quote from part 1:

The New Cooperative Medical Scheme (NCMS) has considerably increased access to basic care in rural China. The coverage, however, only extends to inpatient acute care. This results in a system that is not geared to the health profile of a substantial proportion of its population. Thus healthcare costs increase with age, as health insurance coverage effectively decreases. In rural areas where health resources are already lacking in quantity and quality, the prospects of the elderly living a healthy life past sixty are rather bleak.

One interesting fact that people may not know is that China is aging quite rapidly, due to the one-child policy. This is different than most other developing countries, especially India. The long-term problem is that China hasn’t yet developed a good social net of health insurance or social security; China will slowly be losing that proportion of wage-earners who pay into the system that would pay for those services. So, China has a couple decades to really build up their social nets and provide adequate funding, before those added tax stresses start to hit workers.

Feb 082010
 

It’s a bit, um, difficult to make air pollution a cool subject for kids. Even my recent slide show on air pollution left a few high-schoolers eyes glazed. Fortunately, I spread out a couple fun internet games to perk up the group. Fun and educational! Throw in free and you have an instant hour or two of kid-distractions.

The best collection is from the U.S. EPA:

Chinese Versions

I found a site from Taiwan: 空氣品質兒童網站

Anyone have other good links? Please share in the comment section below.

Feb 042010
 

Smoking is an emormous global issue, not just among expats. As I discussed before, China’s smoking rate is astonishingly high with over 50% of men smoking. The (surprisingly?) excellent national daily newspaper Global Times this week has a good, comprehensive review of the situation, including growing efforts to control smoking by raising cigarette taxes. The major problem with that issue is that the tobacco tax is China’s #1 source of tax revenue; plus, all major tobacco companies are state owned. Here’s a good quote:

An estimated 350 million Chinese smoke and 3 million more take up the habit each year. Twenty-two percent of the world’s population is home to a third of its smokers, grows a third of the world’s tobacco and manufactures a third of its cigarettes.

The tobacco industry is China’s single-biggest taxpayer. The government raised 8.3 percent of its entire financial revenue – 513.1 billion yuan – from tobacco taxes in 2009 according to the State Tobacco Monopoly Administration.

The income does not even come close to the health costs, say the anti-smoking experts. About 1.2 million Chinese die from smoking-related diseases every year.

Lung cancer became the top cancer killer in 2008, according to the Ministry of Health, the number of cases quadrupling over the past 30 years.

Cancer, cardiovascular diseases and respiratory diseases cost the country 223.7 billion yuan annually, according to Li Ling, an economics professor at Peking University.

“Add to that the costs of other diseases and indirect costs such as fire and environmental pollution, the amount goes far beyond the tax revenue generated by the industry,” Li told a conference at Tsinghua University in Beijing.

Jan 272010
 

The newish Beijing Healthcare Forum announces their next meeting, tomorrow night the 28th at Luce. This next meeting’s speaker will be Prof. William (Bill) Valentino, a recognized expert on sustainability and Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR). Here’s the lowdown:

Our next Beijing Healthcare Forum will be Thursday, January 28th.  It will continue to be at Luce Restaurant. 今晚(1月07号)会议的地点是Luce餐馆, 从鼓楼大街地铁站往南走300米, which is 300m south of the Gulou subway station on the east side of the street.  This week’s presentation will be in English.  这次演讲人要用英文讲话。We will have participant translators available for English speakers.

Meeting Details 会议的细节:

Language: English
Date: Thursday, January 28th
Time: 8:00PM (Discussion starts promptly at 8:45PM.)
Where: Luce Restaurant
Address: 138 Jiugulou Dajie, Dongcheng District, Beijing (The building is bright red; See attached map)北京市东城区旧鼓楼大街138号 (房子是红色的; 请看附件内的地图)
Ph #: 8402.4417

This next meeting’s speaker will be Prof. William (Bill) Valentino 演讲人简介:

Bill is a recognized expert on sustainability and Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR). His work and research are focused mainly on China and include collaborations domestically as wells as internationally with key figures in a range of sectors at the forefront of these topics.

Bill is a hands-on practitioner of CSR.  He is currently Bayer’s VP of CSR in China. He specializes in developing CSR and sustainability strategies and programs in both the social (including healthcare) and environmental sectors backed by business and strategic plans to implement them.

Since 2006 he has been an Adjunct Professor at Tsinghua University, teaching in the School of Journalism at the Center for International Communications. He is a leading researcher, analyst and writer on CSR and Sustainable Development, contributing to many Chinese as well as international conferences, publications and journals.

A longstanding advocate for businesses combating HIV/AIDS, Bill facilitated the start-up of the Global Business Coalition on HIV/AIDS in China in 2004 and serves as a Board Member of the NGOs AIDS Care China since 2006 and Positive Art since 2004.

In 2004 he co-founded the Tsinghua-Bayer Public Health and HIV/AIDS Media Studies Program and is the Co-director of the program. In 2009 he expanded the program at Tsinghua to create the Tsinghua-Bayer Institute for Public Health to focus on health literacy which trains the capacity to obtain, process, and understand basic health information and services needed to make appropriate health decisions. Through awareness building and training of the media in China (print, broadcast, Internet, new-media) the program aims to raise the competency and effectiveness of the healthcare media to achieve widespread heath literacy among the Chinese public.

In 2007 Bill was selected by the WHO, Chinese Ministry of Health and the Chinese CDC to join a four-person MoH delegation to the USA and Canada. As a WHO Fellow, the study tour focused on daily health care reporting and crisis communications.

In June 2006 Bill received a part-scholarship from the Harvard School of Public Health to participate and learn in an intensive course in “Health and Human Rights”. This was at the François-Xavier Bagnoud Center for Health and Human Rights at Harvard University.

Bill holds a MBA from Thunderbird, School of Global Management in Arizona and a Masters degree in Instructional Technology and Media from Columbia University, New York. He is also a ’08 alumnus of the Beahrs Environmental Leadership Program (ELP), at the Center for Sustainable Resource Development of the College of Natural Resources, University of California, Berkeley.

We encourage everyone to take advantage of Prof. Valentino’s expertise and invite your friends! Thanks and please let us know if you have any questions.

Jared and Ray
高志忠和邓腾–


http://beijinghealthcareforum.com/
http://groups.google.com/group/beijinghealthcareforum

Jan 272010
 

I find it fascinating that over 50% of men in China are smokers, while only about 5% of women are. Why such a huge discrepancy? These are massive questions for China’s public health teams: why do so many Chinese men smoke? Or you could ask the reverse questions; why do so few Chinese women smoke, and can we adapt their differing value systems to help men stop smoking?

One important thing to note first is that this 50% rate is by no means abnormal, in terms of world history. America is furthest along the anti-smoking bandwagon but smoking rates among men in the 1950’s were likely similar to that of China now. And many countries in Asia have similar or higher rates, including Japan. There seem to be common stages of the tobacco epidemic that are highlighted in the fascinating graph below (source: Lopez et al., 1994). As you can see, China is only in stage 2, where a massive percentage of men become addicted, and a couple decades down the line the rate of disease and death will skyrocket. Note how in the first stages, women smoke far less than men in all societies. Much of the west and Europe is already in Stage 4, where smoking levels taper off but the death rates peak.

(source: Lopez et al., 1994)

So, back to the main question; what is the cultural difference? I’m honestly not sure, but I would love to hear other opinions about it. Certainly there is a culture of men trying to act cool as teens, and they get hooked and can’t stop. This is a universal issue for men; but perhaps as adults there is a uniquely Chinese strong culture for businessmen to drink and smoke, especially during meetings, where it may be considered rude to refuse either a toast or a cigarette. And historically, China’s leaders Mao Zedong and Deng Xiaoping were very heavy smokers and always photographed with a cigarette.

Clearly these cultural issues will take decades of public education to change. Much quicker changes, proven in many countries, would be higher tobacco taxes, warning labels on packs with graphic pictures, and the crucial banning of smoking in all public areas. There’s no reason to think China is any different than other countries, and eventually the cultural attitudes will change here as well. Unfortunately, between now and then, millions of people are going to continue to die from this awful addiction.

Jan 222010
 

There’s an interesting new blog about China healthcare…called, easily enough, China Healthcare Blog. It’s a spinoff of their previous Asia Health Care blog. They have a good group of writers who write original and in-depth articles. One article that caught my eye this week was their mention and ongoing video discussion of a disturbing paper just published in Lancet, which describes the extraordinarily high c-section rate in China, which at almost 50% of all pregnancies is one of the highest rates in the world (China Healthcare Blog | ChinaHB TV, Episode 1, C-Sections in China).

Dec 292009
 

We all sense that China’s current economic frenzy has led to many people — expats as well as locals — to work extremely long hours and face huge amounts of stress in their jobs. Well, it’s no secret that stress, poor sleep and poor diets can adversely affect your health, but a disturbing new report shows just how serious this is in China. The excellent website China Corporate Social Responsibility discusses a new report on this issue:

Continue reading »

Dec 012009
 

Today is World AIDS Day, and local newspapers are providing good information online today. The Global Times has a nice series of articles reviewing the situation in China (Global Times – A nation of ghost whispers.) The gist of the story centers on the stigma attached to HIV positive people here, and the strong discrimination they encounter. Another article touches on the UNAIDS update.

The WHO also is taking advantage of the publicity to announce new guidelines for treatment of HIV AIDS.

Nov 302009
 

Two weeks ago, the open-invite  Beijing Healthcare Forum had its most successful night yet, as over 40 people enjoyed the Q&A session by United Family Hospital CEO Roberta Lipson. The BHF’s next meeting is this Tuesday, December 1, in honor of World AIDS day. 我们的下一次会议将给世界艾滋病日以荣誉. World AIDS day is dedicated to raising awareness of the AIDS pandemic caused by the spread of HIV infection. 世界艾滋病日致力于提高人们对艾滋病的认识。This week, our meeting will be held on TUESDAY, December 1st, not Thursday. It will continue to be at Luce Restaurant. 这个周二(12月01号)会议的地点是Luce餐馆, 从鼓楼大街地铁站往南走300米, which is 300m south of the Gulou subway station on the east side of the street.

This next meeting’s speaker will be Wan Yanhai (万延海) 演讲人简介:

Trained as a doctor in Shanghai, Wan Yanhai manages Beijing Aizhixing Institute, the largest HIV/AIDS NGO in China. The institute works on HIV/AIDS and public health related policy, legal aid and human rights, and community outreach among the most vulnerable segments of the population. He organized several challenging campaigns in China including a national compensation campaign for the victims of HIV infection caused by blood transfusion or blood products, a national working group for the educational rights of people with HIV, hepatitis or other health problems, and a China HIV/AIDS NGO Network. Wan was a member of the Global Fund board developing country NGO delegation, is a board member of the Chinese Human Rights Defenders Network, and a board member of China AIDS Association.

This is an open-invite group! All are welcome to take advantage of Wan Yanhai’s expertise and invite your friends.

Meeting Details 会议的细节:
Date: TUESDAY, December 1st
Time: 8:00PM (Discussion starts promptly at 8:45PM.)
Where: Luce Restaurant
Address: 138 Jiugulou Dajie, Dongcheng District, Beijing (The building is bright red) 北京市东城区旧鼓楼大街138号 (房子是红色的; 请看附件内的地图)
Ph #: 8402.4417

Nov 162009
 

I’ve mentioned before that there is a new Beijing Healthcare Forum which meets bimonthly at Luce. Here’s our description from the Google group website:

We are a group of academics and professionals engaged in projects and enterprises related to health care services.  Our goal is to better inform ourselves and others about emerging trends in the Chinese health care system and market while expanding our network of professional contacts and resources.

Everyone is invited to attend our free Thursday sessions, and this Thurday, November 19 we have the pleasure of listening to Beijing’s well known Roberta Lipson. Here’s more information:

Roberta Lipson, CEO of Chindex (owner of the United Family Hospital group and seller of medical equipment, instrumentation, and products), will be the next speaker at our bi-monthly healthcare group.  We really want to make sure we have a good showing to hear her speak because she has tremendous insight into the Chinese healthcare market, is a terrific speaker, and is an all around wonderful person.  She’s been in China since 1979 and has been the CEO of Chindex since 1981.  Prior to starting Chindex, she worked with Schering-Plough, a pharmaceutical company, and with Sobin Chemical, a worldwide trading company.  As a business leader, managing a multi-hundred-million dollar enterprise, Roberta has powerful things to say about the future of the Chinese healthcare industry.  We think anyone interested in healthcare in China, or China in general, would want to come.

If you know of anyone who would be interested in coming to hear her speak, you should definitely let them know.  Below are the details for the meeting.
Meeting Details:
Date: Thursday, November 19th
Time: 8:00PM (Discussion to start at 8:45PM.)
Where: Luce Restaurant
Address: 138 Jiugulou Dajie, Dongcheng District, Beijing
Oct 242009
 

Beijing has the best collection of doctors and hospitals in China; unfortunately for most expats, it’s next to impossible to find which ones are good. If you have any need for a good doctor or surgeon here in Beijing, the best way is usually to talk first with your expat doctors as they would have the best and most reliable connections.

But, if you wanted to go it alone and you can read Chinese, there are a couple well-used consumer websites which rank doctors and surgeons. The surgeon website, meiloo.com, has ratings of Beijing surgeons, and can also help make appointments. The Washington Post has an article today about meiloo and its owner.

There’s also another popular site called haodaifu.com (literal translation of “good doctor”). With this well designed site, you can read and write reviews of hospitals and doctors.

Oct 192009
 

It’s always fascinating for me to compare China’s health care system with my home country, the US. Both countries have acknowledged that their systems are broken, but each for very different reasons. Both also are enacting major overhauls of their health systems — although it looks like China is ahead of us on that scale.

It’s a complicated issue that frequently changes, and the Wall Street Journal has an excellent review today discussing China’s main problems, as well as their plans to fix it. Check it out below.

Article: In China, Rx for Ailing Health System – WSJ.com.

Oct 182009
 

The hepatitis B virus is one of those dangerous viruses that can cause chronic disease; this one attacks the liver, and after many years can cause liver failure (cirrhosis), liver cancer and death. Unfortunately, in China this disease is extremely common, with an estimated 10% of Chinese infected for life. In China, most people get infected from their mothers at childbirth from blood-blood mixing. Many people also got infected from reused needles in clinics, especially in rural areas, in the 80’s and 90’s.

The problem in China is not just low use of the hepatitis B vaccine but also a huge social stigma, comparable to HIV. Most companies and schools illegally test people for hepatitis B and will not hire or enroll them if positive.

As is the case with many things in China, enforcement of current laws would help end this stigma. Fortunately, the government has just announced new laws to officially make it illegal to bar employment or enrollment of hepatitis B carriers. The New York Times reviews this in the article linked below.

The internet in China has helped push this issue, and “In the Hepatitis B Camp” [www.hbvhbv.com] is a popular website for hepatitis B carriers in China. Its online forum has over 300,000 members.

Article: China to End Required Testing for Hepatitis B – NYTimes.com.