US needs China to ensure medical equipment supplies
Published: Feb 03, 2021 08:27 PM

Workers make face masks at the workshop of a face mask company in Dingzhou,north China's Hebei Province, Feb. 18, 2020.File photo:Xinhua

The US may be able to achieve self-sufficiency in medical products after a time, but imports from China - which has a mature industry chain that can rapidly make masks and respirators - might be the only pragmatic choice for now, industry players say.

The remarks come as US President Joe Biden plans to order a government-wide review of critical supply chains, "in an effort to reduce US reliance on countries such as China for essential medical supplies and minerals," according to a Bloomberg report.

"The action, which will focus both on government contractors and private industry, aims to ensure the US can supply the goods it needs to combat the COVID-19 crisis, as well as other critical technology and raw materials," according to the sources, Bloomberg reported.

Against the backdrop for the rising attention that the Biden administration is paying to the prevention and control of the epidemic, it is always the best choice for the US to buy the items from China for low-priced, clean and sufficient anti-epidemic products, Bai Yu, president of the Medical Appliances Branch of the China Medical Pharmaceutical Material Association, told the Global Times on Wednesday.

Moreover, given the US' current coronavirus situation, use of transportation tools means more chances of infection, said Bai. And, production capacity of masks in China is 100 times that of the US, not to mention that prices for raw materials are much lower, Bai said.

"So why not buy from China rather than producing it themselves for the time being?" Bai asked.

According to the Bloomberg report, the Biden administration's goal is to protect government and private-sector supply chains to prevent future shortages and limit other countries' ability to exert leverage over the US, citing an administration official.

"It might just be a short-term political initiative, while in the long term, they (the US) will still do it based on market principles," Bai said.

Chinese industry players noted that it's unnecessary and impossible for the US to manufacture everything on its own, either in the medical or other industries, since it will only add financial burdens to US manufacturers.

Under the impact of the epidemic, the finances of multinational companies have worsened, and they cannot afford large-scale expenditures to start anything new for a long time to come, they said.

Bai said the China and US have huge cooperation potential in the medical supply sector, and "the cooperation scope will only be wider."

China has seen strong demand from the US for almost all epidemic-related items including syringes, needles, ventilators, freezers for vaccine distribution, testing kits and masks, Chinese industry players told the Global Times. 

Roberta Lipson, founder of United Family Healthcare, told the Global Times in a previous interview that there is plenty of room for cooperation between China and the US. He said cooperation in vaccine development and distribution could help control the current pandemic.