Time to extricate from China
By Peter Murphy
The Communist Party that rules the People’s Republic of China is not a friend of the United States. It is an enemy; or at the very least, an adversary that does not share our interests. It is time Americans understand this more fully, starting with the political class, and act accordingly.
The coronavirus pandemic, which started in the city of Wuhan, China, should be a wake-up call for America on a plethora of issues, including the readiness of our own country to deal with a viral outbreak. Coronavirus is not the first health emergency in our country and it will not be the last.
The coronavirus revealed another major vulnerability of the United States: its dependence on China economically and, more specifically, for the manufacture of medicines. Ominously, the American people are medically dependent on China. This condition was unthinkable with the Soviet Union during the Cold War.
China is now the largest producer of active pharmaceutical ingredients (API) according to the U.S.-China Economic Security Review Commission, a federal agency. A recent commission report stated that the U.S. “is heavily dependent on drugs that are either sourced from China or include APIs sourced from China.” Examples: the U.S. imports from China 90 percent of its antibiotics, which fight infection; and vitamin A, which boosts your immune system.
That is the house organ of the Communist Party of China–led by Xi Jinping, with dictatorial rule over the country–threatening America.
Like the old Soviet Union, China’s government spokesmen and Party media spread false propaganda and incessantly attack the United States. The intensity has increased recently with the spread of the coronavirus, with China now claiming the U.S. started the disease. A foreign ministry spokesman actually blamed the U.S. military for the virus outbreak.
In response, the U.S. needs to do a lot more than chastise the Chinese ambassador.
How did American become so dependent—and vulnerable—to China? Follow the money.
American corporations have done very well doing business with China, with Apple Computer and the National Basketball Association as prominent examples. China is home to more than 1.4 billion people, the most of any nation on the planet. The cost in China to manufacture products is cheaper, and it has large market of current and potential consumers of American goods.
The financial rewards of marketing and manufacturing in China are such that U.S.-based companies and most politicians willingly overlook China’s many ongoing transgressions, especially its oppression of minority populations. For example, as many as one million Uighurs and other Muslim minorities are detained in “re-education centers” in western China that force indoctrination on them.
China also remains a relentless polluter, with its ongoing expansion of coal to grow its economy and expand the global reach of its military. China since 2005 has been the world’s largest emitter of carbon, as emissions now exceed the combined levels of the U.S. and European Union. It is totally unserious about emissions with its meaningless signing of the meaningless Paris Climate Accords.
From a purely self-interested standpoint, it may not matter much that NBA teams play basketball games in China, or that IPhones get made there. However, the manufacture by China of so much of our medicine is a whole other issue of importance.
This economic dependence of the U.S. on China did not come about overnight. It began in earnest 40 years ago with the establishment of formal diplomatic relations in 1979 and has steadily increased during both Republican and Democratic presidential administrations.
By 2000, the U.S. approved “normal trade relations” with China, which was followed by its entry to the World Trade Organization. As China has prospered economically since then, its military build-up has strengthened, and its internal human rights abuses have been ongoing.
The coronavirus reveals how intertwined the United States economy is with China. When supply chains from China get interrupted, it hurts us economically. When the mouthpiece of the Chinese Communist Party threatens to withhold export of pharmaceuticals, it is time to redo this bi-lateral relationship.
The United States should not be in such a vulnerable condition with an adversarial and dangerous nation, both economically and particularly with medicines, which make the difference between life and death. It is time for the president, Congress, and American corporations to begin to wean America away from China, especially as its mendacious and aggressive behavior continues worldwide.
Peter Murphy, a CFACT analyst, has researched and advocated for a variety of policy issues, including education reform and fiscal policy. He previously wrote and edited The Chalkboard weblog for the New York Charter Schools Association, and has been published in numerous media outlets, including The Hill, New York Post and the Wall Street Journal.