An NGO worker in Tanzania pointed out to me that while India had denied responsibility for fake drugs flooding Africa, China never had. With the publication of my articles this week in The Guardian that has now changed.
On Thursday (Dec. 27, 2012) China made the somewhat unusual move of responding directly to my series about bad drugs from Asia endangering African lives, defending its drug quality and export controls and saying for what could be the first time publicly that it is not exporting bad drugs to Africa.
A spokeswoman for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said accusations about bad Chinese drugs in Africa are unfounded, according to the Xinhua news agency. Xinhua wrote: "Cooperation between the Chinese government and African countries has played an important role in improving the healthcare environment for people in Africa."
Neither the spokeswoman, nor a separate piece published on Sina.com about the Guardian series, directly addressed the heart of the matter: a strongly held perception in Tanzania and Uganda that fake and substandard drugs are coming from Asia, both China and India. The story published on Sina appeared to take the opportunity to re-publish most of the heart of my reporting, with a few basic lines calling the story and "Western journalism" into question. But neither the Foreign Affairs spokeswoman nor published media reports addressed scientific research that has shown fake drugs from China have appeared in Africa.
Perhaps acknowledgement of the problem by official China, even in the form of defensiveness and denials, could lead to some changes. At the very least, we know they're talking about it.