On Sept 26, in Tianjin at the World Economic Forum, EU Trade Commissioner Peter Mandelson drank a glass of milk (click to see video) in front of the media to show his support for the Chinese dairy industry and said:
The Europeans will continue to expect the highest standards, just as Chinese consumers are demanding the same…. But in the meantime I shall continue drinking my own favorite, er, milk, er, product, er, er, which I enjoy and which does not make me nervous.
His action, it was reported in the China Daily, touched Premier Wen Jiabao:
Wen said he was very moved when he saw in television European Union Trade Commissioner Peter Mandelson drinking a cup of Chinese milk on Friday to show his trust in China-made products. “It’s because he not only sees the present, but the future as well,” Wen said.
Just nine days later, Peter Mandelson, who now has a new job as Business Secretary back in the UK, has been diagnosed with a kidney stone:
“Over the past few days, Peter Mandelson has been experiencing some kidney pain,” a spokesman said.
“Hospital tests yesterday confirmed that there is a small stone. This will be dealt with by the normal procedures later today.
“He will be attending the National Economic Council meeting this morning as expected.”
Now, just because Event A happened before Event B doesn’t necessarily mean one caused the other. Global Voices Online has translated a spectrum of views from the Chinese web. Netizens, it would appear, are divided. Some like Lao Wan (老碗) have remarked:
Chinese milk didn’t disappoint the world. [Translation by GVO]
Others like Song Shi Nan (宋石男), who we’re told is a pretty well-known blogger, smell a conspiracy to do China in:
In my opinion, there are two possibilities of the truth:
1. Mandelson had known his kidney stones long ago, but simply drank Chinese milk at public to further ridicule China.
2. He had no idea with his kidney stones, and drank milk out of good intention, but just worked out something awful. [Translation by GVO]
While debate continues to rage on the Chinese internets over just what happened, the British media at this point appear to be completely clueless about Mandelson’s milk drinking episode in Tianjin — which was repeated ad nauseum throughout the Chinese media but found limited coverage back in the UK. Neither The Guardian nor The Telegraph (nor any other British paper that we checked) mentioned Mandelson’s little milk drinking adventure in reporting his kidney stone diagnosis. The first paper to make a clear link between Mandelson’s Tianjin trip and his current health problems as far as we know is The Australian, which noted on Oct 8: British politician Peter Mandelson ill after yoghurt in China.
Did Mandelson know about his kidney stone before his China trip? Or was his ailment caused by drinking melamine-tainted milk? Did he know he was going to quit as EU Trade Commissioner and that he would be getting a new job as Business Secretary? These are all interesting questions that inquiring minds will ask. After all, this guy isn’t just another ordinary politician. The Guardian describes him as one of the key architects of New Labour together with Tony Blair and Gordon Brown. In 1994, Mandelson had had a very public falling out with Brown when he chose to back Blair for the Labour leadership and his invitation to rejoin the cabinet is a move that has stunned Westminster, and apparently surprised Mandelson himself.
Many British citizens, are not amused at Mandelson’s reincarnation as a cabinet minister. Here are a few letters sent in to The Telegraph that give you a picture of what they’re thinking:
Peter Mandelson has a coffee on Thursday, is offered a new job in government and accepts there and then.
We have someone who is so good at his job he can leave when he wants, start a new job immediately and get a place in the House of Lords all in a single day.
No wonder we are in a mess.
Rob Price, Cressage, Shropshire
Dismissed, not once, but twice. Unelected, but handed a peerage and returned to the Cabinet.
Is this the type of democracy that our brave troops are dying to introduce to Iraq and Afghanistan?
John Beadle, Cobham, Kent
How shrewd of Gordon Brown to remind us that he isn’t the most despised politician in Britain.
Cyril Berkeley, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia