This must-read article in The Atlantic, in drawing a structural link between the Communist Party and Wal-Mart (this is interesting since a book I just read drew a similar link between the Chinese Communist Party and the Vatican), attempts to understand and evaluate Wal-Mart’s actions on the road to environmental sustainability, and in addressing the fact that "growing numbers of Chinese were also becoming worried, even frightened and angry, about pollution, adulterated foods, and the corruption that kept local government agencies from taking remedial actions." On the food front, this is the money quote to explain why my Chinese friends do not understand why I would shop at a small local co-op:

"No wonder, then, that many in China’s burgeoning middle class, especially those with children, are seeking refuge in brand-name restaurants—particularly fast-food chains such as McDonald’s and KFC—and grocery markets such as Walmart. Walmart has several times come under fire in China for selling produce tainted with toxic chemical residues, and for mixing organic and nonorganic foodstuffs: this fall, for example, the Chongqing municipal government fined Walmart, and temporarily closed some of its stores, for mislabeling pork as organic. Still, because Walmart is a well-known multi-national corporation with so much at stake in terms of its global brand, Chinese shoppers have assumed that it will be a more trustworthy outlet. (Of course, Americans and Europeans have exactly the opposite reaction, seeking safety in small organic producers rather than big corporations.) And since the Chinese government, too, is concerned about people’s health and social stability, and its own legitimacy, it tends to see these larger, well-branded outlets as both models and responsible allies."