There probably is a bit of schadenfreude going on in the US with regard to China’s difficulty in containing the COVID-19 coronavirus. Many in the US undoubtedly think the Chinese are getting too big for their britches, particularly as a result of the recent trade war. And shortly after China was forced to come to the table to sign Phase 1 of the trade deal with President Trump, its coronavirus problem grew exponentially.
But the nature of the world today is that countries are much more closely linked than ever before. And viruses that become pandemic in some parts of the world are highly likely to become pandemic in other parts of the world. The United States is no exception, and despite its great distance from China is just at risk from COVID-19 as any other country.
Now that the number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 is growing, and affecting major metropolitan areas such as Seattle and New York, people in the US are beginning to panic. They’re snapping up latex gloves, N95 face masks, and all sorts of medication. Shelves of stores in many areas of the country have been stripped bare of cleaning supplies, toilet paper, and bottled water. But that is forcing us to face an uncomfortable reality, that US supply chains are heavily dependent on China.
In fact, there’s more reliance in the medical industry on China than in most other industries of the country, and the Chinese aren’t above threatening to retaliate against the US by impacting that supply chain. Did you know that over 80% of medicines consumed in the US are produced in China? That includes everything from antibiotics to common vitamins to aspirin to cancer drugs. Over 97% of antibiotics in the US come from China, and were China to exploit that, untold numbers of Americans would suddenly start dying from treatable infections.
Add in the source of our protective gloves and masks, and you realize that the US medical sector is almost completely dependent on China. If the Chinese wanted us over a barrel, they could easily do so, and that’s frightening. Hopefully the coronavirus crisis is a wake-up call to the US medical industry and gets people to realize that we need to develop new sources for our vital medical supplies before our reliance on China gets us in trouble.