- - Monday, May 18, 2020

As the coronavirus continues to spread, it’s become clear how much disease management is dependent on the quality of Chinese manufactured medications and personal protective equipment. 

The Spanish Ministry of Health has reported more than 1 million coronavirus tests purchased from China are defective. The Czech government reported a similar issue. The Netherlands recalled more than a million face masks for failing safety standards. 

In January, Cardinal Health was forced to recall almost 3 million surgical gowns that had been made in China, at a cost of roughly $100 million. More recently, the United Kingdom ditched an entire order of 250 Chinese ventilators that were designed to help COVID-19 victims. Doctors found the breathing kits were so poorly made they threatened patients’ lives.

We have become reliant on China for 97 percent of our antibiotics. China is the main supplier for many OTC medicines and generics. As for the drugs made in the United States, 80 percent of the active pharmaceutical ingredients come from China and India. 

The FDA recently ordered the removal of Zantac from store shelves after NDMA, a carcinogen used in rocket fuel, contaminated production. In September, a recall of Chinese-manufactured blood pressure medications expanded for the fifth time. 

It’s not as if the contaminants were unknown. The Chinese plant where the recall originated hid the fact that the medications failed to meet U.S. standards. In 2008, the Chinese-sourced blood thinner heparin killed 81 Americans. The FDA suspected the drug was intentionally tampered with to bolster profits.

Remember the pet food recall? It erupted when Chinese manufacturers added melamine, an industrial chemical used in plastics. The shipments were purposely mislabeled to avoid inspection and led to the death of thousands of pets. That same adulterant was found in baby food formula that led to 50,000 hospitalizations and some infant deaths.

A report from QIMA, an international quality control company, found nearly half of all Chinese inspections failed to meet modern health and safety standards. Last year alone, the FDA refused 768 shipments from China, for issues varying from false labeling to pesticide adulteration. Many of the new plant-based synthetic “meats” rely on plant proteins, typically soy and pea. According to the Good Food Institute, a trade association for plant-based meat alternatives, China is “a dominant supplier of soy and pea protein to the world.” So much for the health halo of these new meat substitutes which are heavily reliant on these imported protein components.

A 2015 report by Asia Inspection found nearly half of all Chinese food processing plants fail international standards for food safety. According to the report, abnormal levels of antibiotics, bacteria, pesticides, and heavy metals are found in food processed by China.

The concern extends far beyond food and medicine. Chinese firms and investors own a controlling majority in nearly 2,400 U.S. companies. Many are recognizable brand names. They own AMC theaters with more than 8,000 screens. This “soft power” empowers the Communist government to block unflattering movies from being presented — both in terms of creative production and mass distribution. Recognizing the additional leverage of the Chinese domestic movie market, China is going to be the arbiter of what scripts will be produced. 

Part of a new program known as “Made in China 2025,” the Chinese government has identified domestic sectors in which it hopes to expand manufacturing capacity. And it’s widely acknowledged that it involves stealing technology from American businesses in aerospace, biomedicine, high-end rail transport and at least seven other major commercial areas where they can invest and then gain technology on the cheap. 

If coronavirus has had a silver lining, it is the exposure of how dependent we’ve become on an unreliable and passive aggressive Chinese Communist Party.  

In the Chinese language, the word “crisis” (weiji) consists of two characters: Danger and opportunity. Our dependence on China is the danger. The opportunity is for America to reclaim its sovereignty and refuse China’s export of harm and influence in America.

• Richard Berman is the president of Berman and Co., a public relations firm in Washington, D.C.

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