Note: This came as a surprise to us. The New York Times is notoriously pro-vaccine, and vicious toward the vaccine safety and choice communities. We are pleased to see concern regarding vaccine safety, even from across the globe. Where there is risk, there must be choice. Otherwise, which nation is Communist?
If a Government Can’t Deliver Safe Vaccines for Children, Is It Fit to Rule?>Another scandal over shoddy drugs in China, another hit to the Communist Party’s legitimacy.
By Yanzhong Huang
Mr. Huang is a global-health expert specializing in China.
Earlier this month, hundreds of aggrieved parents gathered outside the government office in Jinhu County, in the eastern province of Jiangsu, demanding an explanation for why 145 infants had been administered expired doses of the polio vaccine. It was China’s fifth vaccine scandal in less than seven years, and yet another blow to the country’s drug industry, its national immunization program, its regulatory authorities — and to the very legitimacy of the Chinese Communist Party (C.C.P.).
Last summer, one of China’s largest vaccine makers was found to have issued at least 250,000 substandard doses of vaccine for diphtheria, tetanus and whooping cough. (Many more were discovered later.) Soon after, in a survey of 300,000 parents by Xiaodoumiao, an app used to book vaccination appointments, 79 percent of respondents said that before the scandal, they would have given their children a vaccine made in China, but only 36 percent said they would still do so now. Sixty percent of respondents said they were considering having their children inoculated outside mainland China.
Then and this month as well, there were protests, sometimes violent, against local officials. Last summer, after a senior regulatory official appeared on state-owned television to address public concern, Chinese web users lambasted him for his stiff manner and his Burberry shirt, calling it inappropriate for the occasion. The sanctions that the government undertook — firing officials, imposing a colossal fine on one drug company — didn’t seem to quell people’s anger.
The scandals, especially their repetition, undermines the people’s trust in the state. This would be true to some extent almost anywhere, if only as a failure of regulatory oversight, but they hit harder in China.
As the sociologist Dingxin Zhao has argued, a state can justify its power in essentially three ways: by appealing to shared values, to the sanctity of an electoral process and the rule of law, or to its own performance. In China, the C.C.P.’s hold on power today isn’t based on popular elections or the rule of law, and the party can no longer appeal to the superiority of communism as a holistic political theory. So it must justify its continued rule by consistently delivering public goods, such as economic growth or better standards of living.
Democratic governments also worry about their performance to some extent, because they are concerned about losing the next election. But democracy as a political system draws its legitimacy from respecting basic rights and procedural fairness... Read more behind a paywall here.