Coronavirus and China dependency
"[A] passionate attachment of one Nation for another produces a variety of evils," said George Washington in his Farewell Address. "The Nation, which indulges towards another an ... habitual fondness, is in some degree a slave. It is a slave ... to its affection ... which is sufficient to lead it astray from its duty and its interest."
It is a message that has long since been forgotten in the long history of the United States. Foreign entanglements have become common, with outdated diplomatic alliances refusing to be revoked, even as the common man suffers. The U.S. dependency on China is one such example. With millions of jobs having been sacrificed for cheap imports, American blue-collar workers have taken the brunt of this unequal trade alliance, an unspoken deal since China was admitted into the World Trade Organization in 2001. China has exploited the larger world market while simultaneously shunning WTO guidelines, issuing non-tariff barriers to minimize foreign influence in its domestic markets.
The rapid spread of COVID-19, colloquially known as the coronavirus, has put focus on how strong dependency on a foreign nation can suddenly yield a black swan event.
Napoleon infamously said, "Let China sleep; when she wakes, she will shake the world." The coronavirus, an export of China, has shaken the world. It has pummeled the stock market, causing unpredictable fluctuations that day traders have been scrambling to conquer. Fear of traveling is ubiquitous, and airlines and cruise ships are struggling to remain profitable. Consumers aren't consuming, save for hand-sanitizer and protective masks.
Even The Economist, the magazine founded in 1843 to promote free trade, has written of the wariness growing toward China concerning outsourcing the supply chain for production of pharmaceuticals in an article titled "Covid-19 is teaching hard lessons about China-only supply chains." The article quotes those who have expressed their discontent with China's role as a growing hegemonic power, such as Pentagon official Christopher Priest, who said that "the national-security risks of increased Chinese dominance of the global API [active pharmaceutical ingredient] market cannot be overstated."
Ninety-seven percent of antibiotics used in the U.S. are imported from China, according to a study from the Department of Commerce. And it isn't just the U.S. that depends on China for medicine; the Eastern Dragon is responsible for 20 percent of API production worldwide. Contaminated drugs have been exported from China in the past. For example, 246 people died in the years 2007–2008 due to the blood-thinner heparin being contaminated. Cheap imports come with poor quality control.
Factories in China have been forced to shut down in attempts to restrain the virus. Drug prices can easily rise if the virus continues to affect production. A survey among pharmaceutical professionals revealed that 85 percent expect disruptions in the supply chain due to the outbreak.
There is also a moral consideration when deciding to outsource to China. There is irony in the fact that many of these Chinese workers make less than a dollar an hour in poor working environments, to the point where they attempt suicide by leaping from windows, while the medicine they manufacture is meant to heal. Many lawmakers see no problem with this situation.
Failed Democratic presidential candidate Michael Bloomberg wrote in the Financial Times that growth in China "creates jobs for our export producers." That may be so, but according to the Economic Policy Institute, there have been overwhelming job losses due to trade with China since 2001. Every state in the U.S. has been affected, with 3.4 million jobs lost. Bloomberg also claimed that China is forced to "act responsibly," because of trade, in areas like "climate change." Apparently, the Communist Party of China hasn't gotten the memo from Bloomberg since the time he wrote the article in 2007, as anyone can witness if he traverses smog-filled Beijing. The Chinese do not care about environmental protection, as evidenced by their CO2 pollution being higher than the U.S. and Europe added together.
Why continue to view unmitigated free trade with China as beneficial for the U.S.?
"China is not our friend," tweeted Trump. "They are not our ally. They want to overtake us, and if we don't get smart and tough soon, they will." This was in 2013, and what he said then is still applicable today. His steel tariffs have proven to be a step in the right direction, which becomes clear when seeing how our imports from China decreased in 2019 by $87 billion, a decrease that hasn't been seen in 30 years.
Because China subsidizes many of its factories to undersell foreign markets, even while said factories are operating at a loss, unless America takes an active stance to protect and expand the pharmaceutical industry and others at home, we will always be a slave to foreign powers. As is written in Proverbs, "the borrower is the slave of the lender," and China's appropriation of our debts has given it too much leverage over our commercial policy.