As the coronavirus pandemic continues to ravage the world, one of the casualties is likely to be the practice of outsourcing manufacturing to China. The dishonesty that the Chinese government practiced when the disease first appeared in the city of Wuhan and the fact that some critical medication is manufactured in China has people thinking that manufacturing needs to be brought home to the United States.
According to the Washington Examiner, Sen Cory Gardner, R-Colorado is starting to sound the charge for factories that make critical products, especially medicine and items such as face masks, should be yanked out of China. “We’re staring into a significant, significant crisis of supply chain. Cheap labor or cheap manufacturing be damned if you are reliant on them for your life and livelihood.” Gardner’s sentiment appears to be widely shared by Trump administration officials.
Rampant dishonesty about the severity of the coronavirus pandemic is, in part, motivating calls for an economic uncoupling of the United States and China. The National Review points out that when the disease first appeared in Wuhan, the Chinese government lied about how easily it could be transmitted from person to person. The government line was that coronavirus was caused by exposure to Wuhan’s “wet market” where exotic animals such as bats were sold for human consumption.
Beijing not only lied about human to human transmission of coronavirus, it actively suppressed data being promulgated by Chinese doctors. The Chinese government continued the lie even as cases appeared inside and outside of China in people who had never been near the Wuhan market.
The implications are mind-numbing, according to the National Review.
“Clearly, the U.S. government’s response to this threat was not nearly robust enough, and not enacted anywhere near quickly enough. Most European governments weren’t prepared either. Few governments around the world were or are prepared for the scale of the danger. We can only wonder whether accurate and timely information from China would have altered the way the U.S. government, the American people, and the world prepared for the oncoming danger of infection.”
Many experts suggest that if China had been more forthcoming, the current carnage and the economy-killing measures being taken to isolate entire populations to try to smother the spread of the coronavirus might have been avoided.
The fact that China has spread the conspiracy theory that somehow the United States Army spread the coronavirus does not help.
China compounded its sins by hinting that it may deny the west life-saving drugs to the West. Fox News related an example of the threats being published in state-run media outlet Xinhua. The article suggested that China could impose export controls on medications that would “plunge the United States in the mighty sea of coronavirus.”
The grip that China has on the production of medications of all kinds turns out to be astonishing. Fox News reports on how many common medications that Americans rely on are manufactured in China.
“Though the United States is a global leader in research, much of the manufacturing of life-saving drugs has moved overseas. The last American manufacturing plant to make a key component in penicillin shuttered in 2004. Since then, Chinese pharmaceuticals companies have moved in and taken over, supplying between 80 percent and 90 percent of U.S. antibiotics, 70 percent of acetaminophen and about 40 percent of heparin, according to Yanzhong Huang, a senior fellow for global health at the Council on Foreign Relations.”
Clearly one of the effects of the coronavirus pandemic has been to focus on how vulnerable the United States is to a government that has a demonstrated record of dishonesty but also does not hold the best interests of the United States in high regard. The situation is similar to the control over the world’s oil and gas supplies exerted by Middle Eastern countries until the recent development of American sources of fossil fuels. OPEC, the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries, more than once imposed oil embargos that cause price spikes and shortages in oil-importing countries such as the United States.
Chinese officials are less than pleased at talk of the United States developing domestic sources of drugs and medical devices. Some officials in the European Union have repeated the idea that any effort to make drugs in the United States would be less efficient and more costly.
Such talk does not impress Sen. Gardner. Under current arrangements, the supply chain for drugs and medical devices is too prone to disruption to allow China’s dominance in their manufacture to continue.