Thousands of small rocks that have been laying on a Shanghai railroad track were found by freight inspectors earlier this week. They appeared to have been part of a shipment of meteorites collected from the Svalbard archipelago off the Norway coast.
But an investigation by Chinese customs officials has now found that they are in fact large numbers of pyrite that have broken off from a meteorite. According to Bloomberg News, which spoke to an expert in space minerals, the rocks “could have been incorrectly labelled” as meteorites. As such, one expert warned that an entire shipment of the rocks could have been damaged.
The smuggling episode comes amid growing fears in China that the government’s grip on manufacturing will be eroded by independent companies as the Communist Party undergoes rapid reform, which has previously taken place in telecoms and energy. The import of porcelain could also become a target for private competitors. In a report from the state-run Global Times newspaper last week, Beijing-based factory inspectors revealed a number of hidden conditions in the country’s porcelain plants, including by denying its use to foreign factories.
While unclear what role the unnamed Chinese firm played in the smuggling of the meteorites, there were already reports of a battle among independent companies working on their development. Earlier this year, according to the South China Morning Post, 6,500 people, representing one-third of the China-based manufacturing workforce of porcelain producers, walked off the job. The strike was about the combined effects of the government’s campaign against the smuggling of gold into China, among other factors.
Read the full story at The New York Times.
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