Bethany Allen-Ebrahimian, Thank you, but we prefer the salt monopoly, TeaLeafNation, November 20, 2014
China is the world’s biggest consumer of salt — one kitchen staple that has so far remained unadulterated by the country’s many food safety scandals. But now Chinese netizens are worried that is about to change.
China’s Ministry of Industry and Information Technology announced on Nov. 20 that it will end the state monopoly on salt that has existed since 1950, according to a report by state broadcaster China Central Television (CCTV). State media is touting the move as a step towards the market reforms that President Xi Jinping and the ruling Communist Party have pushed as China’s export-oriented economy slows.
Yet the country’s netizens are far from rejoicing at what appears to be a step to rein in the power of China’s hulking state-owned enterprises. Rather, the question roiling China’s online social spaces after CCTV’s announcement seemed to be what will happen when profit-hungry fraudsters, eager to make a quick buck, jump into the newly open salt market.
“There will soon be frequent cases of industrial salt” — far cheaper than table salt — “being mixed with edible salt,” went one popular comment on Weibo, China’s huge Twitter-like microblogging platform. Another user wrote, “Soon the media will be putting out articles called ‘How to tell industrial salt from table salt.'” The topic seemed to resonate; “salt monopoly abolished” became a top-trending hashtag on Weibo, and one related post on CCTV’s official Weibo account quickly garnered over 1,300 comments. One user commented cynically, “I’ve eaten all kinds of fake products; now I will finally have the opportunity to eat fake salt!”