Southern Weekend has two reports on the healthy and not-so-healthy consumption habits of Chinese politicians.
The first exposes a secret vegetable farm in Beijng’s Northeastern Shunyi district, which has supplied organic produce to Beijing’s customs department for more than 10 years. Special vehicles arrive from the department three times a week, loading up with a over 1000 Jin of cucumbers, tomatoes, aubergines and other vegetables each time. The vegetables are grown by local villagers using only organic fertilizers, ensuring fewer health risks for the customs department staff. The scene inside the farm sounds idyllic, with a fishpond, peach trees, and six sheds packed with produce, including fresh cucumbers which can be eaten direct from the ground without washing. Business is thriving: ”They buy whatever we grow’, says one of the growers. Apparently, Beijing’s western hills district is peppered with farms providing wine, eggs and vegetables specially for government departments.
According to the report, the practice of ‘special provision’ (特供）of food to government departments by dedicated farms exists in every province. In Xian, the provincial high court obtains food from a dedicated farm 30km outside of the city, an office of the Hubei government has an arrangement to buy a special kind of luxury rice, while one office of the Guangdong government hires villagers to come and grow vegetables directly at their training center. In Beijing, the practice was spurred on by the Olympics, a number of farms who provided food for that event went on to become government providers. Under the system, providers undergo regular quality inspections, and can have their special provider status removed if they fail inspection more than once.
The parallel system of food provision for the government, and strictness of the safety checks for government food contrasts badly with the almost daily news of new food safety scandals effecting ordinary people (today: fake pig’s feet). ‘Don’t the leaders say they share our hardships?’, one commenter on Southern Weekend’s website asks. (But on the positive side, with enough investment, maybe special provision is the model that can be scaled up to finally solve China’s food safety problems)
The second report is on Maotai Baijiu, still proving a favorite with politicians and leaders of state owned enterprises and the army, according to the report. Some tidbits from the article: Government enterprises won’t serve anything below 53% proof Baijiu, the head of Sinopec’s Guangdong branch, recently shamed for buying expensive alcohol with government money, should be praised for buying Baijiu in bulk as its cheaper than buying it per bottle, and industry leaders present car of choice is the Audi A8, because it looks like the kind of car which would be driven by government department leader.