'Chinese garlic posing threats to US' is definitely not just a joke: Global Times editorial
Published: Dec 11, 2023 12:48 AM
Bloated hype beyond all reason. Illustration: Liu Rui/GT

Bloated hype beyond all reason. Illustration: Liu Rui/GT

A garlic bulb traveled across the ocean from China to the US, little did it know that along with being served on the dinner table, it would also be caught up in the narrative of the so-called "China threat" by American politicians. Recently, Republican Senator Rick Scott wrote a letter to the US commerce secretary claiming that "Communist China of all grades of garlic" poses a threat to US national security and called for an investigation. After this letter was reported by the media, the abundance of anti-intellectual content in it has lowered people's perception of the professional ethics of "American senators" and turned Scott and this letter into an international laughingstock. 

Scott's demand is clearly absurd, as it is rare to find anyone who would have such baseless fears about garlic, except perhaps in Western legends about vampires. In Scott's perception, influenced by online videos and cooking blogs, Chinese garlic is grown using human feces and sewage as fertilizers, making it unsafe and unhygienic. According to him, if food is unsafe, it poses grave threats to US "national security, public health, and economic prosperity." Scott may be fond of the internet but he doesn't read much. In addition to current scientific knowledge, as early as 1911, American agricultural scientist Franklin Hiram King pointed out in his book Farmers of Forty Centuries: Organic Farming in China, Korea, and Japan that organic fertilizers, primarily composed of manure, were the secret to the sustainability of East Asian agriculture and provided inspiration for American agriculture. Even the BBC couldn't bear Scott's fear of Chinese garlic and clarified the matter by quoting a Canadian institution in its report.

To be honest, one could easily laugh off such low-level accusations from these American lawmakers. However, the issue lies in the fact that when such incidents occur repeatedly, it reflects a clear hostility. From Huawei, ZTE, Xinjiang cotton, to seafood and now garlic, all sorts of anti-intellectual remarks are prevalent in the US. It is not just a few congressmen with "mental problems," but rather they have received implicit approval from the political environment they operate in. The US tendency to broadly securitize issues related to China allows even the smallest matters to be linked to national security without sufficient evidence, providing opportunities for some anti-China politicians to exploit the situation.

Take garlic, as Scott mentioned, for example. In the year 2020, when the epidemic broke out, the export of Chinese garlic to the US declined due to rising transportation costs and other reasons, resulting in a sharp increase in garlic prices in the US. During these two years of severe inflation in the US, cheap garlic from China actually helped to stabilize garlic prices, allowing ordinary people to buy relatively inexpensive garlic. Who wouldn't be happy about this? Obviously, it wouldn't be the ordinary people of the US. Senator Scott, from the agricultural state of Florida, is already making calculations in his mind, despite his surface-level crazy talk.

It is worth noting that the mainstream media in the US, which is most sensitive to the "China threat" material, has remained almost entirely silent this time, with only a few outlets providing simple reports. This silence clearly indicates their awareness of the unreliability of Scott's related remarks. However, the real danger lies here. Regardless of how bizarre and extreme the anti-China views of the lawmakers are, American public opinion has chosen to "remain silent" and "not expose" them. It appears that they understand well the boundaries of "criticism." Behind this silence, there is actually an indulgence for unfair competition under the guise of "security threats" and a collective "tacit approval" of extreme selfishness and self-interest. This is a much more serious issue than an unreliable letter.

Therefore, Scott's letter cannot simply be regarded as a "joke." It is not only unfunny, but also reflects a harsh reality in the China-US relationship. Despite the fact that everyone knows these lawmakers are lying and that their lies are causing harm, why do these misconceptions continue to grow like a snowball? Some say that Capitol Hill is like that, it is a reflection of America's "diversified culture." However, it has now become a breeding ground for "conspiracy theories," which clearly obstructs the progress of "American culture" or, in other words, continuously tarnishes the image of the US as a nation.

Looking back, claims that garlic in China was fertilized with human feces and grown in sewage show how outdated Scott and others' imagination of China is. China strictly adheres to the export garlic safety technical planting standards, which encompass not only the fertilizers and irrigation water used but also the air quality. If there are legitimate concerns for food safety, both parties can completely resolve them through normal and transparent channels, without resorting to label garlic with ideological stereotypes and engage in such "attacks." Otherwise, the more forcefully one strikes, the more one exposes their ignorance, and it will also increase the world's concerns about US anti-intellectualism.