Tipton: U.S. must end reliance on China for critical supplies

Mankind is no stranger to global pandemics. Outbreaks of deadly viruses have and will continue to test our resiliency and force us to band together to find ways to contain the spread, build immunity, or quickly find a vaccine. This approach, however, only works when accurate information is readily available, and all impacted nations and health agencies can effectively coordinate together.

The global COVID-19 response has been severely hampered by China’s Communist Party (CCP), which has deliberately resisted working in good faith with global leaders, as is typical practice during a global pandemic. This ongoing and desperate act of self-preservation by the CCP, and their egregious deception and reckless actions in the early days of the virus, has cost lives and thrown the entire world into a public health and economic crisis. It should be a wake-up call to the United States to end our reliance on China for pharmaceuticals, medical supplies, mineral resources, and other critical manufacturing infrastructure.
Following decades of human rights abuses, theft and manipulation of American businesses’  intellectual property, and continued military aggression in the South China Sea and elsewhere, the CCP has added another bullet point to its well-documented and extensive list of wrongdoings and deception. The CCP was ultimately responsible for the initial attempted cover-up of the COVID-19 outbreak, which originated in Wuhan, China, and is believed to have started in November 2019. The long-term economic and societal impacts for our nation and the rest of the world remain largely unknown, but what is certain is that a more transparent reaction from Chinese officials could have drastically slowed the spread of the virus and potentially saved many lives.

The pandemic has shined a bright light on our nation’s overreliance on China for medical supplies and pharmaceuticals, which has created insurmountable challenges for some hospitals and health care centers that have had trouble effectively treating patients due to shortages of Chinese-made masks, ventilators, and routine personal protective equipment (PPE), and disruptions in the pharmaceutical supply chain.

Aside from its well-known wrongdoings, even when China has tried to show goodwill to us and our allies by offering access to medical equipment and supplies for the workers on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic, there is pervasive fraud and exploitation. Many reports have highlighted Chinese businesses — most of which are at least partially owned or are under stringent control by the CCP — requesting up-front money wires for equipment before the purchasing entity has even had an opportunity to review the equipment being sold. This has resulted in scams and fraud including the delivery of thousands of faulty masks, ventilators and other medical equipment to countries that need it the most.

Fortunately, American scientists and drug developers still lead the way in entrepreneurial discoveries and testing of life-saving drugs, but according to the Council of Foreign Relations, China supplies more than 90% of American-developed drugs back to U.S. medical suppliers and hospitals. American pharmaceutical companies must move manufacturing operations back to the U.S., which would create jobs and better protect the supply chain during times of a global health crisis. American companies that develop PPE and other critical health care equipment, like ventilators, must also shift their manufacturing operations back to the U.S.
Our reliance on China is not confined to the health care sector. The U.S. must reposition itself as a leader in the extraction and processing of rare-earth minerals. Most of the critical and rare earth minerals American companies rely on come from China, and even if they don’t, they are processed in China. I am working to cut China out of the supply chain. My bill, the Rare Earth Cooperative 21 st Century Manufacturing Act, would better allow American mining companies and other manufacturers to process the minerals that are produced in the U.S. I also support the Trump Administration’s recent efforts to bolster the U.S. rare earth mineral production industry as we cannot continue to rely on China for these critical resources.

Other necessary legislation that I support to hold China accountable are H. Res. 907 and 909, which express that China made serious mistakes during the initial outbreak of COVID-19 and urge future investigations into the scope of those mistakes. Until we and our allies send a clear and unified message to China that its actions will not be tolerated, the country will continue down its reckless path.

Having the flexibility and capability to act quickly and decisively is important during a global public health crisis, when even one day lost has significant impacts. To have a strong domestic response to a global pandemic, natural disaster or military conflict, we must have a reliable supply chain for critical public health and safety infrastructure. It is clear our health care supply chain was not fully ready for this crisis. We now have an opportunity to learn and take immediate corrective action. Ending CCP’s supply chain dominance will better serve all of us.

Congressman Scott Tipton represents Colorado’s 3rd Congressional District.

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