Our frightening reliance on China must come to an end

Jul 08, 2020

As the coronavirus pandemic swept across America, it caused disruption like we’ve never seen before. It also exposed some of our nation’s biggest vulnerabilities. Chief among them being our reliance on China for manufactured goods, especially pharmaceuticals and critical health care supplies.

Americans across the country have been shocked to learn that the United States imports almost all of its over-the-counter pain medications from China, including 70% of acetaminophen and 95% of ibuprofen.

On top of that, 90% of the prescription medications that Americans take are made in China, including antidepressants; chemotherapy treatment for both children and adults; and medication for Alzheimer’s, HIV/AIDS, diabetes, Parkinson’s and epilepsy. Perhaps most concerning is that a recent U.S. Department of Commerce study found that 97% of all our antibiotics come from China.

That’s not to mention that prior to this pandemic, China was producing more than half of the world’s medical masks.


If we’ve learned anything from this pandemic, it’s that our reliance on an authoritarian and unaccountable China for essential goods and services cannot continue.

Our frightening dependence on Chinese imports has contributed to the ongoing erosion of our domestic manufacturing capacity and greatly compromised our nation’s security and stability.

However, there’s a silver lining: These glaring vulnerabilities have given American businesses and workers the opportunity to remind us all of the value of domestic manufacturing.

Over the past several months, our manufacturers and supply networks have stepped up in countless ways to produce and deliver essential medical supplies such as N95 masks, ventilators and other components needed for COVID-19 testing kits. One such manufacturer is based in my district in Northeast Ohio, ROE Dental Laboratory.

Within weeks, the company repurposed its facilities from crafting precision dental products to producing COVID-19 testing swabs and disposable face shields, using advanced 3D printers. ROE’s efforts helped Ohio increase its testing capacity from roughly 7,200 people per day at the end of April to 22,000 people per day at the end of May, essentially tripling the Buckeye State’s testing capacity within a single month.

Just like our medical professionals, these manufacturers are unsung heroes on the front lines of this crisis. They proved that by breaking China’s supply chain monopoly and rebuilding our domestic manufacturing capacity, we are not only promoting American manufacturers but also keeping Americans safe.

But now we have to act. Policies coming out of Washington must encourage more of this superior domestic production.

As a member of the Buy American Caucus, fighting for American jobs and supporting American manufacturing are two of my top priorities.


That’s why I have long supported career and technical education programs, including apprenticeships.

Perhaps the most common concern I hear from local manufacturers in Northeast Ohio is that they have jobs available but cannot find qualified workers to fill them. This problem has led many manufacturing companies to increasingly rely on apprenticeship programs to develop, grow and retain a skilled workforce.

These programs combine on-the-job learning with technical instruction to produce qualified, knowledgeable employees, helping to shape the futures of millions of students and prepare them for the high-wage, in-demand job opportunities that the 21st-century workforce has to offer.

But it will take more than a boost to career and technical education to regain control of our supply chains.

We will also need to identify ways to incentivize businesses to return from overseas and resume production here on American soil.

If we succeed in both supporting our domestic manufacturing base and bringing our overseas supply chains back to the U.S., we will solidify our resiliency to global crises like the coronavirus pandemic.


We now know that there are serious, life-threatening dangers caused by our inability to meet the needs of our citizens during a mass medical emergency. We simply cannot allow our national security and the health of our citizens to be compromised by our unnecessary dependence on China.

Congress has a clear responsibility — together with the American people — to greatly reduce our dependence on foreign sources for crucial goods.

This is not a Republican or Democratic priority, and it shouldn’t be treated as such.

We need to work together across party lines to identify ways to regain control of our supply chains and bring back manufacturing to the United States.

If we don’t, we are playing right into the hands of the Chinese Communist Party.


You can read the op-ed in its entirety online here.

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