MELISSA BLOCK, host:
Hundreds of thousands of light truck radial tires made in China are being recalled due to safety concerns. This follows recent U.S. recalls of or warnings about a number of other Chinese-manufactured products, from contaminated pet food to tainted toothpaste to Thomas and Friends toy trains coated with lead paint.
Joining us to talk about this is David Barboza, who covers business in China for the New York Times. He is Shanghai. And David, let's talk first about these tires. What's the matter with them?
Mr. DAVID BARBOZA (Columnist, New York Times): Well, these tires, apparently, were missing some safety mechanisms or they call them gum strips, and that means that these tire threads can often split. It's alleged that some of them have split and fallen apart and caused some accidents.
BLOCK: What's the response been in China to the recall from the manufacturer?
Mr. BARBOZA: Well, the manufacturer was difficult to get through to today, but the response seems to be a typical response that we've had in these recalls, a denial. And the company today, when I spoke to one of the lawyers for Hangzhou Zhongce Company, said that this is pretty ridiculous, that they did not fail to put these safety mechanisms on the tires and that it's impossible that they could have done that by themselves and that this is sort of made up.
BLOCK: It seems at times that they indicate that there's some sort of conspiracy afoot really against Chinese manufacturers.
Mr. BARBOZA: Right. And it would almost seem like that because we've seen a series of recalls, of major recalls in the last couple of months. So their impression is a little that they're getting beaten up over things at a time of trade frictions between the U.S. and China. But in fact, we're seeing more scrutiny of Chinese goods because of maybe the pet food recall or the toy recall. And so people are starting to look for problems coming out of China and they're finding them.
BLOCK: I want to ask you about another story that you covered recently, David, and this was the Thomas and Friends lead paint story. And it lead to you being detained for nine hours at the Chinese factory that makes those toys. They said you were a spy. Tell us what happened.
Mr. BARBOZA: Well, I ended up going to Dong Guan, which is a factory in the south where they were making these Thomas and Friends toys. I went with a translator and a photographer. I signed in, in the security guards. We're pretty easy going about the whole thing and they let us go on to the campus. And we ended up in one of the factories making some of the goods, and then some official came down and was very angered that we headed even - we were inside the factory that were on the campus.
And finally, they brought this factory supervisor over who insisted that we had intruded and broken onto the campus and that maybe we weren't really reporters or from the New York Times. Maybe we're - we were taking photographs because we were spies. He forcibly held the three of us inside of that factory and threatened to call the police, which he did not. We ended up calling the police.
BLOCK: And the way you wrote about it in the New York Times, it became clear that even when local government and police came, they were pretty much powerless to help you get out of there. It was the factory owners who had the power.
Mr. BARBOZA: That's right. And that was the big surprise to me. I never imagined that I would be held in a toy factory. And that when the police arrived, none of them did anything. In fact, when the government, rather high-level government official arrived, they also admitted to me that they couldn't release us. We had to negotiate with the factory bosses and they had to negotiate with the factory bosses, that they didn't really have the power to do anything.
BLOCK: David Barboza, who covers Chinese business for the New York Times, speaking with us from Shanghai. David, thanks very much.
Mr. BARBOZA: You're welcome.
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