Loss of Credibility Leads to Salt Stripping


Supermarkets and convenient stores in Shanghai have run out of salt in the last several days as the rumor spreading that a portion of city’s salt that comes from the Sea of Japan would be contaminated by the country’s radiation leaks.

The wave not only hit Shanghai, but also across provinces from eastern Zhejiang to southern Guangdong to western Sichuan.

In the face of the nation-wide salt stripping, most comments criticized that Chinese people lack popular science and rationality. Compared with Japanese’s calmness  facing the disaster, how ridiculous we are crazily grab salt for nothing.

It is true that lacking general knowledge and rationality can explain the panic purchase, but the criticism from the media is on condition that salt cannot guard against radiation exposure. Let’s flash back. What did media say what can prevent us from radiation after the nuclear leak? I remember they said salt. We are not buying salt without any reason. Moreover, has any expert used any words that we can understand to explain why we won’t be affected by radiation? I wonder how many common people are able to understand these technical terms said by the experts.

I was following the news of the fires and explosions at the nuclear power stations in Japan. Here come the Chinese experts. Before these explosions happened, we were not told this was even a possibility. After that, they stated it wouldn’t affect the surrounding areas. I guess these experts do not know what exactly is going on; however, they sent us a message with confidence which turned out to be wrong. It’s like slapping on their faces. Since what the experts have commented is on the opposite of the truth, how can we be rational and calm? How can we trust them?

Actually this is not the first time we have rushed to shop. We made panic purchase of vinegar during SARS; when miracle-working doctor was popular, green beans were snapped up; now, we are running out of salt. One of the major reasons is the loss of the credibility of public media and authoritative reference source. That’s why sometimes we tend not to believe the news. We are not to blame for that.

Chinese people always prepare for the rainy day. We rather believe it to be true than not when confronting with the rumor. The rumor released by a couple of people online and awakened the majority’s crisis awareness.

Though China National Salt Industry Corp, The Ministry of Health and other experts all posted information telling people that taking regular table salt cannot prevent radiation and the Chinese mine for the majority of salt, as much as 80 to 90 percent are taken out of rock salt deposits, the horrible sheep-flock effect was still going on. Why?

This incident can’t be merely concluded as rumor and blindness. It’s not least because that the government credibility has been lost seriously. In another word, if we truly believe government that the nuclear radiation wouldn’t affect China or do any harm to our health, then we wouldn’t listen to the rumor and purchase salt blindly.

U.S. Department of State reaffirmed the other day that China will not be affected by the nuclear radiation. Why the heck do we need foreign government to deny the rumor for us? Isn’t it our government’s duty? Isn’t it pathetic?

This could be another good example for the government to figure out how to improve the public trust. It is government’s responsible to send the accurate and efficient messages in the first place.

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