Bear bile. Before last week, I don’t think that I’d ever had a conversation about the substance – much less written about it. But that was before I heard about Guizhentang, a Chinese pharmaceutical firm that extracts the substance from the gall bladders of 470 bears that it keeps at its Fujian farm. The extraction process is anything but pleasant (unpleasant video, here), and that’s one reason – really, the main reason – that Chinese netizens have been up in arms since the company announced it was going for an IPO back on February 1. The resulting discussion touches on China’s nascent animal rights movement (a subject I covered, once before, for Foreign Policy in 2010), and the evolving role of Traditional Chinese Medicine in Chinese culture. This week, my column over at Bloomberg World View covers this debate, and you can read it here.
When you’re done with my column, I urge you to head over to That’s Shanghai to read Tricia Wang‘s extraordinarily good “Dumplings for Sale,” a meticulously reported and moving account of a migrant family that sets up a small business selling dumplings from a cart in a suburban Shanghai neighborhood. I can’t recommend it enough.