Rep. Roger Marshall: China's coronavirus reckoning – act now to end US dependency for drugs, medical supplies
Having practiced medicine for nearly 30 years, I have seen how foreign dependence, specifically on imports from China, harms the medical supply chain and our readiness for an outbreak firsthand.
Just five years ago, I noticed supply shortages even in the course of normal events. Common items like IV solutions and disposable surgical devices, as well as many anesthesia medications, became difficult, if not impossible, to obtain. Surveying the problem, there was a common denominator: “Made in China.”
For years, China has created artificial medical supply shortages because they know we depend on their imports. The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated problems that were already festering. As a result, the entire country is feeling the impact of our foreign dependence and a weak medical supply chain. It is threatening our long-term health as a nation and it must be confronted with real action. I am supporting two plans that would immediately do so.
The Medical Supply Chain Act would help end our excessive dependence on Chinese medical parts. It would do so through three key steps.
First, it would require manufacturers to notify the Food and Drug Administration of forecasted or imminent medical supply shortages. That requirement is in place for pharmaceutical drugs. It should be in place for medical supplies in order to better prepare for pandemics.
Second, it cuts through government red tape by expediting the review period of medical devices in the event of manufacturer reported shortages. This will allow providers to have quicker access to devices needed to deal with an increase in illnesses.
Third, it grants the FDA authority to access information from drug and medical devices regarding their manufacturing capacity. That includes the source of component parts and ingredients and scarce raw materials.
The Fair Trade with China Enforcement Act takes numerous steps to curb China’s influence on our economy.
It would bar China from receiving technology or intellectual property that could be sensitive to our national security. It would impose a shareholder cap on China’s investments into American businesses. It would ban federal agencies from procuring or using telecoms equipment from ZTE and Huawei, both of which are controlled by the Chinese Communist Party and are proven bad actors. Additionally, it would allow American courts to hear cases against foreign entities and change the Internal Revenue Code to tax income received by China from American investments.
Just as I have seen the negative effects of depending on other nations for medical supplies and pharmaceuticals undermines our long-term health and security, I have seen how wrong Washington has been about China for years. A generation of leaders thought that strengthening our ties to China would moderate the Chinese Communist Party. How wrong they were.
China’s government silences dissidents in the name of projecting strength. It oppresses its citizens and assigns them so-called “social credit scores.” It steals American intellectual property and forces companies to share their technology in exchange for business. It has milked its WTO status as a “developing nation” for all its worth, doing so while expanding its global influence and waging propaganda campaigns against America, including blaming us for COVID- 19.
No one should be surprised that the Chinese Communist Party’s first response to COVID-19 was downplaying the threat and making dissidents disappear. No one should be surprised that the Chinese Communist Party is actively waging a campaign to blame America for the crisis.
However, the blame for COVID-19’s spread from China’s Wuhan province to a full-blown global pandemic lies squarely at the feet of the Chinese Communist Party and its pattern of dishonesty. Had they fought the spread instead of denying the problem, things would be much different today.
Under the status quo, China is becoming less free and America is becoming much less safe. Something has to give. No one should expect China’s behavior to change unless America takes action. And no one should expect us to be better prepared for the next pandemic unless we take action. These are intertwined problems with an intertwined solution. And that is the only option if we are to avoid this ever happening again.