Is China trying to poison the world?

A bit of hyperbole in the title there, but this piece in the NY Times raises some unpleasant questions about the safety of stuff coming out of the country we fear most economically.

Diethylene glycol, a poisonous ingredient in some antifreeze, has been found in 6,000 tubes of toothpaste in Panama, and customs officials there said yesterday that the product appeared to have originated in China.

“Our preliminary information is that it came from China, but we don’t know that with certainty yet,” said Daniel Delgado Diamante, Panama’s director of customs. “We are still checking all the possible imports to see if there could be other shipments.”...

Diethylene glycol is the same poison that the Panamanian government inadvertently mixed into cold medicine last year, killing at least 100 people. Records show that in that episode the poison, falsely labeled as glycerin, a harmless syrup, also originated in China.
It's not that I think China's government is intentionally allowing this kind of stuff to happen as part of some master plan to take over the world. It's more like I wonder if their economy is growing so quickly that they're not monitoring the quality of goods being processed closely enough. Is this China's version of our own Robber Baron era, where the safety of workers and consumers and environmental damage was as secondary concern (if it was a concern at all) to the push for greater profits? Considering the amount of goods the US imports from China, we should worry, especially since we've lost a lot of our manufacturing infrastructure in the last thirty years. If for some reason we had to severely curtail our imports from China for health and safety reasons (not that I think our government would ever actually do that), we'd be hard-pressed to get things up and running again in the short term.

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