Here on The Duran, we are blessed to be able to run news and opinion pieces with widely divergent points of view. For example, this piece submitted by InfoBrics, written by Lucas Leiroz from Rio de Janiero, proposes the possibility that COVID-19 got its start in the US, and was planted in China as a weapon to assure a US victory in the trade war being waged with China. My own piece, “Here is why infection by the coronavirus is so dangerous” takes the opposite tack, analyzing the known pathology of the virus to see if other naturally occurring viruses can also suppress the body’s immune system until a late, far-developed stage of the disease (answer: they do). Whatever side one prefers to believe is one’s own business – we are here to provide food for thought, but not neccesarily the answer. However, one thing does seem increasingly clear as this crisis progresses: The era of Chinese-dominated economic globalism is over.
At least, it ought to be.
A spate of newspieces in the United States revealed a startling fact hiding in plain sight: that China is the place of manufacture for a great many pharmaceuticals used throughout the world, including the United States. While the US is the leader in medical technology, manufacture of that technology en masse has for decades been farmed out to China. When the coronavirus started to (at least) appear to abate in China, the government of the People’s Republic wasted no time in issuing blame against the US and threats to cut off supplies of many vital pharmaceuticals to the Americans. This is very dangerous, of course, should the Chinese actually choose to do this. Click here to see the present world map of the COVID-19 spread and you can see why:
“One example of possible backlash from China, said Dr. Oskui is recent newspaper reports emanating from China suggest the Chinese government “may just flip the switch and stop our access to those things.”
“The United States of America should never be in that position,” he said. “I think we need to turn to people we know that worked for Pfizer, worked for Merck, work for Amgen, work for Gilead, worked for Bristol-Myers Squibb the U.S. drug companies and say ‘you know we understand that you have few share obligations to your shareholders but you also have an obligation to your fellow Americans, as American citizens as an American drug companies’ you need to start making it here just because you can make huge profits abroad we shouldn’t be vulnerable to economic and political blackmail and vulnerable to the medical downside of these drugs being manufactured off our shores.”
China may well have stepped on its own face by making this veiled threat. While the country’s Xinhua party spokesmedia is busy praising the practically “divine” leadership of President Xi Jiping through that country’s severe crisis, this effort may be a face-saving exercise to try to maintain the faith the Chinese people have in their own government. This is important, especially considering that China’s 1.48 billion citizens could, if agitated enough, very easily overthrow the Communist Party in that country and replace with something else. They have not done this because of the combination of repression by the government on a few dissenters, and the propensity human beings have for “playing the game” rather than fighting the gamesters.
I cannot opine that a resentful Chinese populace, if incited to revolution, would necessarily replace the present structure with something better. People are people, revolutions are usually very bloody, and part of the success of Chinese communism lies in the fact that the Chinese people have never championed American style liberal democracy. Maybe a lot of Americans like this form of government, but that does not mean everyone else in the world must. Russia threw off Communism to replace it with a presidential republic, where the Parliament acts strongly as the legislative reach of the President. The structure works, at least well enough not to get the leaders thrown out. China has been the same way. We therefore cannot reliably postulate that any Chinese revolution would necessarily yield a democratic government in the style of the US. Most likely it would not, and there is not necessarily anything wrong with that.
Nevertheless, the possibility that the Chinese power apparatchik is worried about some sort of uprising appears to be a factor involved in the sudden present wave of Chinese nationalism and flag-waving about their leadership, even as large parts of that country remain quarantined.
When the flag-waving extended its reach into the West, though, this may well have been bad play. Fox News was quick to pick up the threat from China, and it is eminently logical that such a threat in the presence of what may well be a truly historic crisis would have the exact opposite of what China wants – and as a matter of fact – desperately needs.
The strongest rhetoric comes from analysts like Laura Ingraham, Tucker Carlson and Steve Hilton who note that China makes most of the base ingredients of pharmaceuticals for the United States, and that threatening to withhold these in a time of crisis is exceedingly dangerous. But it also outlines very clearly the next policy moves that must be made: To repatriate vital industries back to the United States: Pharmaceuticals, steel, and computer component manufacture just to name a few.
What is more, the rest of the world is likely to pay attention to this threat as well, whether or not they like the United States or not. This threat may – and probably should – energize any and all Western nations (really, all nations) to rethink their own policies about what gets made where.
China’s threat may lead to a sharp uptick in the move to de-globalize, to locate vital industries and concerns to the various homelands of the world.
Russia is also in the same situation. After Communism fell, the initial wave of “integration” into the world economy had many Russians buying European and American products, including foodstuffs like cheese. The Russian agricultural community was producing breads and some other food products, but the local sentiment was (and still is in many cases) that Russian-made products are inferior by definition. There is significant justification for this still across some market sectors. Russia is also a big Chinese customer. For example, the popular diaper brands in Russia are Pampers and Huggies. There are Japanese brands on offer as well, but the two American labels are considered the best, and they have been manufactured in… you guessed it: China!
Recently, Russian factories have begun producing Huggies, and right away the quality issues became apparent. (I know this because my wife noted it right away concerning our daughter’s needs, and she is Russian.)
The imposition of sanctions against Russia over the annexation of Crimea* started to move the needle on food manufacture in the country, as local farmers got a significant lift in their efforts to produce what used to only be purchased from Europe. But now, with China attempting to show her power over the world by making such threats as that with the pharmaceuticals, even Russian authorities have to consider this as well. One can expect, even with the warm relations presently between the two countries, that there will be some quiet moves to shore up “Made in Russia” manufacture of various important items as well.
China is reputed for copying and “forging” Western technologies, and this allegation has sat on the country for many years. For a long time, “It’s Chinese” meant that the item was cheaply made and produced on the backs of slave labor, of poor quality, low cost because it isn’t worth much anyway.
Some of that has changed. While the slave labor component may not have moved much, the Chinese have done excellent work at reverse-engineering, researching and innovating in the technology fields. Now their high-tech companies are easily among the world’s finest, and not because of copying Western tech, but through their own innovative and inventive efforts, more and more. This is a great thing for China, and it is a great thing for the rest of the world in a competitive market.
However, the manufacturing imbalance created by the gradual advance of “Chinese globalism” is a problem that has been thrown now into sharp focus by the arrogance of the Chinese Communist Party itself. The country already had one huge strike against it in the world community – that it is a Communist country with an abhorrent human rights record. That got a pass for decades because of the goods coming out of their factories, as anyone with an iPhone, a Huawei or Xiaomi phone should acknowledge. But coronavirus provoked some sharp rethinking: first with the shutdown of these manufacturing facilities, and now with the propagandistic sort of rhetoric now that China seems to think the crisis in their country has passed.
Coronavirus may well go down in history as the final nail in the coffin of globalism. Many people agree with this sentiment. China may become what it rightly ought to be – a competitor in the world, but not the nation that holds the rest of the planet by their economic short hairs.
The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of The Duran.