Hold China accountable – or give it even more control?
Paul Driessen and Ned Mamula
China unleashed Covid-19 on an unsuspecting world. It knew by early January 2020 (if not by December 2019 or earlier) that it was dealing with a vicious, fast-spreading disease in Wuhan, a city with more people than Chicago and New York City combined. But first it said nothing. Then it lied repeatedly, expelled foreign journalists, and threatened, silenced or “disappeared” Wuhan doctors who tried to warn the world.
The Chinese Communist Party used its influence with the World Health Organization to advance its false claims about the origins of the Wuhan virus (likely a laboratory or wet market in the city) and absence of human-to-human transmission. The CCP even claimed the virus was brought to Wuhan by US soldiers during an October 2019 military sports tournament. It shut down domestic travel to and from Wuhan, while allowing millions to fly between Wuhan and Europe, the United States, Africa and Latin America.
By July 1, the Wuhan virus had sickened 11 million people worldwide and killed a half million – with 2.7 million ill and 130,000 dead in the USA alone. The virus caused trillions of dollars in economic damage, as the world issued stay-home orders, closed down global trade and made hundreds of millions jobless. Amid the pandemic, China shipped defective respirator masks, engaged in hoarding and price gouging on medical supplies, and expanded its campaign to blame other countries for the disaster.
A University of Southampton study concluded that, if China had been honest and transparent, and stopped foreign travel to and from Wuhan even three weeks before it actually did, global Covid-19 transmission could have been reduced by 95% and hundreds of thousands would not have died. Nor would the world economy have imploded. (The WHO refused to declare a global pandemic until March 11.)
China’s outrageous behavior is nothing new. Companies wanting to sell products in China have long been compelled to build factories in China and share their technological and manufacturing secrets – while Chinese students, agents and hackers have systematically stolen other intellectual property and trade and defense secrets. Its treatment of Hong Kong, Laos and Chinese Uighurs is duplicitous and immoral.
Many have said China must be held accountable, punished, and made to pay reparations and financial penalties. Justice certainly demands that. In a more perfect world, it might even happen. However, securing a verdict on reparations would be a tall order, enforcing any verdict highly doubtful.
China’s status as a global economic and military superpower is augmented by its positions on the United Nations Security Council, in the World Trade Organization, and on the UN Human Rights Council (along with Iran, North Korea and other moral exemplars). Its predatory lending practices make China an even more untrustworthy pariah, and conditions in its mines, processing plants and factories show that it has little regard for workers’ health or basic rights. Indeed, it demands that we ignore human rights issues.
These problems are compounded by China’s control of numerous vital supply chains. China dominates not just manufacturing of US drugs like heparin, vaccines and penicillin, but the active ingredients that allow US companies to make other essential medicines. Chinese companies thereby control 70% of acetaminophen, and up to 95% of antibiotics and hydrocortisone. In 2008, contaminated heparin from China caused 81 US deaths. Much of the USA’s basic and high-tech medical equipment (respirators, surgical masks, protective gowns, and MRI and CT scan equipment) is also imported from China.
The United States is also beholden to China for metals and minerals in energy, aerospace, defense, telecom and other industries. Joe Biden, AOC, Democrats and environmentalist groups would not just shut down fossil fuel production, pipelines and fuels for power generation and manufacturing. They would effectively turn our energy systems, manufacturing, defense, livelihoods and living standards over to China.
Chinese computer chips are in countless products – and Trojan horse viruses or backdoors for hackers could enable steady information theft, take over GPS systems or crash electrical grids. Minerals, metals and components essential for aircraft, night vision goggles, computers, wind turbines, solar panels, rechargeable batteries, electric vehicles and other technologies are sourced directly from China or through Chinese companies that conduct horrific mining operations in Africa, Asia and Latin America. Supplies of these materials or products could easily be restricted or cut off amid trade or other conflicts.
Incredibly, America has nearly all the metals and minerals needed to manufacture these products, and many more. However, because of unrelenting environmentalist and Democrat opposition to exploration and mining, the nation’s vast, mineral-rich federal lands (worth many trillions of dollars) remain off limits and undeveloped, forcing the United States to import the vast majority of its essential raw materials.
In fact, America is needlessly 100% dependent on imports for 35 “critical” minerals and metals that are needed for defense, aerospace, transportation, communication, “renewable” energy and healthcare technologies – including 15 different rare earth elements (REEs). At least 25 of them come from China. Another half dozen come from Russia. Not one is renewable, clean, green, cheap or sustainable.
That means America imports nearly two-thirds of its critical minerals and metals from adversaries and enemies! Amazingly, although the United States once led the world in producing REEs, China now makes 95% of all the world’s rare earth metals, using technologies that the U.S. gave them – for free.
Thin-film solar panels require indium and tellurium, to convert the sun’s rays to electricity. Making solar panels also requires lead, cadmium, copper, gallium, silver, polyvinyl fluoride, and other materials and chemicals. Just building the 500 square miles of solar panels that Dominion Energy Virginia is planning would involve some 5,000,000 pounds of cadmium and enormous amounts of these other materials.
A single 2-megawatt wind turbine requires some 3.5 tons of copper to generate and transmit electricity – plus 900 tons of steel, 2,500 tons of concrete, 45 tons of non-recyclable plastic composites, several tons of rare earth elements, and many tons of manganese, cobalt, aluminum and other metals and minerals.
Magnets in hybrid gas-electric vehicle motors require dysprosium and neodymium, while a single 100-kilowatt-hour Tesla rechargeable battery pack (for all-electric vehicles and backup power systems) requires 140 pounds of lithium, large amounts of cobalt, nickel, graphite, aluminum and copper, and smaller amounts of manganese and rare earth metals. The raw material demands go on and on.
Multiply these requirements by the tens of thousands of offshore wind turbines, millions of onshore turbines, billions of solar panels and billions of 1,200-pound battery packs that would be needed under the Green New Deal – and the demand for raw materials would translate into unimaginable increases in mining around the world. It would also bring unsustainable global ecological impacts, enormous increases in global fossil fuel use and emissions, indefensible reliance on Chinese (and Russian) raw material and finished product imports, and vastly more slave and child labor and human rights violations around the world.
Transformers, smart grid control systems, electric vehicles and thousands of miles of additional transmission lines under the GND would add even more to the increases in raw materials demand. Modern civilizations also need numerous other metals: arsenic for microwave communications, fluorspar for aluminum and steel production and uranium processing, gallium for LEDs and cell phones, graphite for rechargeable batteries, scandium for lightweight alloys and fuel cells, bismuth for pharmaceuticals and lead-free solders, antimony for lead-acid batteries and flame retardants, and countless others.
It bears repeating: Almost every one of these essential materials could be mined and processed domestically. But instead many are 100% imported, mostly from China. Many Americans’ disdain for mining and manufacturing means US energy, jobs, living standards, health and national security will be almost entirely dependent on China, Russia and other countries that are not exactly friendly or reliable.
One thing is certain. Unlike US technologies and intellectual property that are constantly at risk of theft by China – there is absolutely nothing about US mineral resource policies that the CCP would ever want to copy, much less steal! And the Chinese certainly have no interest in copying our pollution control, mined land reclamation, wildlife protection, workplace safety, fair wage, child labor or human rights laws.
Sadly, not one of these realities seems to merit even a moment’s consideration by GND proponents.
Paul Driessen is senior policy analyst for the Committee For A Constructive Tomorrow (www.CFACT.org) and author of books and articles on energy, environment, climate and human rights issues. Dr. Ned Mamula is geologist and former mineral resource specialist with the U.S. Geological Survey. He is author of the book Groundbreaking! America’s New Quest for Mineral Independence.