While the coronavirus pandemic has been a time of unimaginable suffering and uncertainty, it has also forced us to reflect, adapt and conquer our challenges head-on.
Above all, it has been a tragic wake-up call, one which has required reexamining what it takes to put American’s health, safety and prosperity first. It has shown that our country can no longer bypass a three million-mile elephant in our path to long-lasting vitality. Of course, I’m talking about China.
Every day is a reminder of the lives and livelihoods China cost by unleashing a global health crisis they could have prevented. It’s the same Communist Party that has trampled on human rights and religious freedom, polluted our planet, stolen our intellectual property and ripped off American innovation for decades.
Congress has recognized China as a bad actor, but they have not gone far enough. As FBI Director Christopher Wray recently put it, China is “the greatest long-term threat” to our nation. Multiple reports have shown that during COVID-19, China has launched a growing number of cyber-attacks, including stealing our medical institution research and personal health care information.
In addition to stealing our data, the coronavirus has sounded the alarm to our dangerous dependence on China for drugs and medical products. Chinese pharmaceutical companies have supplied more than 90 percent of U.S. antibiotics, vitamin C, ibuprofen and hydrocortisone, as well as 70 percent of acetaminophen and 40 to 45 percent of heparin in recent years.
While we have allowed China to hold a monopoly on making essential goods and supplies for our healthcare system, many have sat idly by as they refuse to hold up their end of the bargain for purchasing ours.
China pledged to buy $36.5 billion worth of American agriculture products under the phase one deal, up from $24 billion in 2017, prior to the trade disagreements. However, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, China purchased only $4.65 billion in the first four months of the year. That is only 13% of the goal set in the trade deal.
This hits home in Iowa, where agriculture is the heart of our economy. Recent reports have shown that the COVID-19 crisis has hit Iowa’s ethanol and pork production sectors the hardest; ethanol accounting for $2.9 billion in losses and pork suffering nearly $2.1 billion.
If anything comes from this turbulent time in our history, it should be this: The Chinese Communist Party is held accountable. Politicians in Washington have serious and immediate action they can take to put China in their place.
Tightening “Buy American” laws so federal agencies are required to purchase American-made pharmaceuticals and medical equipment is critical. We must close loopholes allowing the government to purchase pharmaceuticals, face masks, ventilators and other medical products from foreign countries. Increasing government demand for American-made drugs and medical products will provide an incentive for companies to make their products in the United States so that we can end our reliance on China.
I also support serious investigations into China stealing our data. Congress needs to closely examine calls to ban known violators for stealing data such as TikTok, which has been accused of collecting more data than it needs. The U.S. military has already banned its members from using TikTok. We should seriously look at any option to ban federal workers from using TikTok as well.
Finally, we need to hold China accountable for following through on their commitments to purchase our goods. Iowa farmers are already suffering and can’t afford more of China’s empty promises.
The global pandemic has woken us up to harsh realities and disrupted our day to day lives, forcing us to create a new normal. In crisis, we have found clarity, and now, we must find courage—the courage to put America and Iowa priorities first.
America’s new normal must include a China that is held accountable.