Delusional push for US-China decoupling may cost lives in global pandemic

Source:Global Times Published: 2020/3/31 21:33:41

Delusional push for decoupling may cost lives in pandemic

A family looks at toys made in China at a store in Los Angeles on September 13. Photo: AFP

Some Amazon workers on Monday organized a strike at a facility in Staten Island, New York, demanding better protection from the company after a worker there tested positive for COVID-19. 

What the US logistics giant is facing may be just the tip of the iceberg for American businesses amid the coronavirus pandemic, as employees' growing anxiety over their risk of exposure has forced factories across the country to shut over recent weeks.

While it remains unclear what kind of supply gap will be caused by the factory closings in the future, one thing is certain: the US is facing severe shortages of medical equipment. According to a survey of 213 city mayors, 91.5 percent of US cities were in short supply of face masks for first responders and medical personnel; 88.2 percent didn't have sufficient personal protective equipment other than face masks; and 85 percent didn't have a sufficient supply of ventilators.

As EU nations have already shut their doors on exporting critical medical goods during the pandemic, that leaves China as the only country with the manufacturing ability to meet US demand. That is surely the last thing some US Congress members want to hear, considering their persistent push for a US-China decoupling. But like it or not, it is the reality.

And the US isn't just dependent on China for medical supplies, it also relies on China for daily commodities. According to information from the US National Retail Federation, over 41 percent of clothes, 72 percent of shoes and 84 percent of travel goods in the US market were made in China in 2018. In 2019, computers, cell phones, apparel and footwear were among the largest US imports from China.

But this being the case, it is still not impossible for the US to continue seeking a break from China and its manufacturing sector. As some politicians have stated, Americans can make do with less, but that process will be tough and come at a great cost. It would not be the rational choice, especially when there is a growing risk of supply shortages globally and China may be their only hope for the time being.

While European and US manufacturers have been shuttered in response to the escalating coronavirus pandemic, production activity in China has been gradually resumed. China's manufacturing purchasing managers' index (PMI) came in at 52 in March, following a record low of 35.7 in February, indicating manufacturing is beginning to recover.

In the global pandemic fight, whether or not Washington chooses to cut itself off from Chinese medical supplies will actually be a trade-off between a decoupling and Americans' lives. Without China, the US would spend more time and more lives to combat the virus.

And more industries crucial to Americans' lives will also be disrupted without Chinese supplies. About 80 percent of active pharmaceutical ingredients used in US drugs are supplied by China and India, which also provide 90 percent of generic drugs to Americans.

Those who seek a decoupling and ask China to compensate for their losses need to accept the fact that Americans need Chinese manufacturing more than they think.

Newspaper headline: Delusional push for decoupling may cost lives in pandemic

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