“Why did you bring me into the world to suffer?” Ren Chen, a 13-year-old boy from Hunan province, asked his mother after a decade of constant illness and two kidney surgeries. He is one of almost 300,000 children who fell ill after 22 companies, including state-owned dairy company Sanlu, laced their milk powder with melamine, a chemical used to make plastic.
Since then, Chinese children have been endangered by not one, not two, but three vaccine crises wherein eight infants died, two million improperly stored vaccines were illegally sold around the country, and at least 250,000 doses of substandard vaccines were administered to children. The pharmacist who sold two million improperly stored vaccines, Pang Hongwei, earned an estimated $11 million through her illicit activities. This was the second vaccine scandal Hongwei orchestrated. She was simply transferred to a different city after being caught the first time, even securing a new job as a sales employee at a pharmaceutical company.
Years of similar commercial scandals, Ponzi schemes, environmental disasters, and food safety scares have caused severe issues of consumer mistrust, setting the stage for the development of China’s social credit system (SCS).