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Throwing the Bathwater Out With the Baby

Beijing would have you believe that this is the final word in the tainted milk scandal:

Chinese courts sentenced two men to death and three other defendants, including a top dairy company executive, to life in prison on Thursday for endangering public safety in a tainted milk scandal that killed at least six children, according to state-run news media.

Another defendant received a suspended death sentence and 15 others, mostly dairy producers and middlemen, were given terms ranging from two years to life in prison. In all, 21 people were sentenced for their roles in one of the worst food-safety scandals in China in decades.

Yeah, that sounds pretty final-like, all right. Only not really.

The rot in China goes deep, from their banking system -- which is in worse shape on a good day than ours is right now -- to their military -- which not-so-secretly (and quite corruptly) controls major chunks of the economy. All that's just a given when you have capitalism without real property rights, and free markets without free political parties.

So the only way to beat back corruption is to enforce major penalties for most infractions -- and look the other way when the bad guys wear uniforms or are high-ranking Party officials. Sometimes it works, as in this case, but in most cases it doesn't.