How to Reduce US Reliance on China

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Washington, April 22, 2020 | comments

Townhall op-ed from Rep. Budd

As our nation battles the COVID-19 pandemic, we need to seriously rethink how reliant we are on China.

Late last month, a Chinese Communist Party state-run media agency threatened to cut the U.S. off from key medical supplies. The agency proudly proclaimed that China could “announce strategic control over medical products and ban exports to the United States. Then, the United States will be caught in the ocean of new coronaviruses.” 

The Chinese Communist Party also misled the world about the severity of the COVID-19 pandemic from the beginning. Reports show that Chinese officials silenced doctors who tried to warn of the virus’s deadliness, ordered the destruction of COVID-19 research samples, deliberately underreported the number of COVID-19 infections and deaths in China, and even pushed a conspiracy theory that the United States military was somehow responsible for disseminating the disease in China. 

On top of this, the Chinese Communist Party knowingly refrained from warning their own people about the pandemic for six crucial days, costing thousands of lives. During the week of January 14-20, Chinese officials determined they we’re dealing with an extremely contagious virus yet continued to allow the city of Wuhan to host a mass banquet with tens of thousands of people. It wasn’t until the last day of that week that President Xi Jinping finally warned the public about the severity of the virus. By that time it was too late, and more than 3,000 people had already been infected. Had China warned the public six days earlier, thousands of lives would have been saved and Wuhan’s medical system would not have been overrun. 

China’s behavior cannot go unanswered. That’s why I joined my colleague Rep. Jim Banks (R-IN) to send a letter to the State and Justice Departments asking them to sue the Chinese Communist Party for their lies and the havoc they caused. Going a step further, I co-sponsored legislation with Rep. Dan Crenshaw (R-TX) this week that would allow individual Americans to pursue legal action against the Chinese Communist Party. Both of these measures would put additional pressure on China and hold them accountable for misleading the United States and the world.

The pandemic has also laid bare another crucial deficiency in our relationship with China. The fact that the Chinese Communist Party and India dominate the world’s supply of basic drugs. According to Rosemary Gibson, a health care expert at the Hastings Center, approximately 80 percent of pharmaceutical ingredients used in U.S. drugs come from China and India. China is one of the world’s largest suppliers of the raw materials for key antibiotics such as cephalosporins, doxycycline, and penicillin and Americans rely on China for many over-the-counter and generic drugs such as antidepressants, Alzheimer’s medicine, cancer treatments, epilepsy medicine, and more. China is also the world’s largest exporter of medical devices.

Part of the reason we have found ourselves in this situation is because of the increase in the foreign manufacturing of drugs and active pharmaceutical ingredients since the 1990s. As a result of an increase in the cost of producing drugs in the U.S., manufacturers have had to find more affordable ways to make them. Consequently, many U.S. companies turned to China and India, where labor costs are lower and manufacturing is subject to fewer regulations. 

However, relying on a communist nation like China for key life-saving medications is a clear threat to national security. It’s time to find innovative and affordable ways to encourage more U.S. companies to produce our most important pharmaceutical products and medical supplies here at home. 

It has become painfully clear that China can no longer be trusted. Their lies on the world stage and their domination of critical medical supplies necessitate a new approach. Our pivot should be away from China and toward national self-reliance so we are never caught flat-footed again.

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