China has long dreamed of being the dominant power on the planet. Until recently, it seemed well on the way to succeeding, with the stamp “Made in China” appearing on nearly a third of the world’s manufactured goods.
What a difference a pandemic makes.
On Friday, Chinese officials said their country’s economy shrank by 6.8 percent from January to March 2020, compared with one year ago.
The “China Dream” of dictator Xi Jinping is now on life support, in grave danger of succumbing to the same novel coronavirus that he and his fellow communists have unleashed upon the world.
I say we turn off the ventilator.
This sentiment seems to be even more infectious than the disease itself. A Harris poll released on April 6 found that 77 percent of the US population believes China is to blame for the pandemic. Before this thing has run its course, most of the world’s seven-plus billion people will likely agree as well.
It was just three years ago that Xi made a triumphal entry into Davos, celebrated as the new champion of free trade by Europeans leery of Trump’s America First policies.
Today, it is hard to imagine an invitation to Davos — or an invitation to anywhere, frankly — being extended to the Chinese dictator, whose campaign of silencing and intimidating medical whistleblowers allowed the virus to flourish and eventually spread across the world.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson is said to be furious with China as he recovers from the coronavirus, which nearly killed him earlier this month. Not only may he shut out China’s state-controlled electronic firm, Huawei, from the UK’s 5G networks for good, he has promised that there will be other consequences for China’s failure to share accurate and timely data on the deadly virus.
How well-disposed do you think the leaders of Spain, Turkey, the Netherlands, Australia and the Czech Republic are toward China at the moment? All of those countries have been on the receiving end of defective PPE and test kits, Chinese medical supplies that failed to contain the virus.
Even an official in Iran, China’s closest ally in the Middle East, has bitterly complained about the Chinese lies that cost the lives of thousands of his fellow citizens.
The epidemic has also revealed our dangerous dependence on China for many of our most common drugs and medical supplies. You might think that no country would ever threaten to withhold life-saving medications in the midst of a global pandemic. But, shockingly, China already has. We have no choice but to add such things as penicillin and PPE to the list of products that, like steel and silicon chips, we must be able to manufacture here.
The big question is whether major American companies — say, Apple — will begin to move production out of China in the wake of this pandemic. Left to their own devices, they probably wouldn’t. It would mean sacrificing their bottom line for intangibles such as US national security and economic independence.
But governments are already intervening to make sure their companies do act in the national interest. Japan’s government has just announced that it will start paying its companies to relocate out of China. Other countries, including our own, will doubtless follow suit. Then there are Trump’s tariffs, which will kick back in if China likely fails to keep its promise to buy $250 billion in American-made products before the end of 2021.
In the next year, the Chinese economy will suffer a death by a thousand cuts: a resumption of the Trump tariffs, supply chains relocating to other countries, factories moving to freer climes, consumers around the world rejecting China’s wares.
No single cut will be fatal. But taken together, they will bleed China’s economy dry. They may also, it is to be hoped, shake the corrupt and incompetent Chinese Communist Party to its very foundations.
For the sake of our economic well-being and national security, America has long needed a “hard decoupling” from China.
Ending this interdependence requires considerable economic sacrifice on our part, but there is much more to the “China price” than the upfront cost. Factor in the trillions of dollars of damage to the global economy because of the “Made in China” pandemic, and the cost is simply too much to bear.
Steven W. Mosher @StevenWMosher is the President of the Population Research Institute and the author of “Bully of Asia: Why China’s ‘Dream’ is the New Threat to World Order.”