The New Yorker’s Evan Osnos reveals the most sought-after product for Chinese visitors to bring home from Macau, following years of scandals and scares over tainted food:
… Macau still runs, more or less, as a separate state, and I’ve been reminded how much you can learn about a society by seeing what its people buy when they step outside the country. In the seventies, the Soviets went in search of genuine Levi’s. In the nineties, Chinese scholars stocked up on Disney paraphernalia for their mermaid-and-princess-obsessed kids. These days, you step across the border from China to Macau, and you are inundated with what?
Baby formula. In the prime real estate where one might expect to find the usual array of borderland businesses—jewelry shops, money changers, electronics vendors—there are, instead, pharmacies for blocks in every direction They are stacked to the ceiling with big, coffee-can sized containers of baby formula. To get an edge, stores put signs in the window promising: “Real Merchandise, Guaranteed.” When demand really spikes, the stores have to limit mainlanders to a few cans each, to prevent a run on baby formula.