This week the Senate is debating legislation to improve our competitiveness with respect to China. The goal is a fine one. But shoveling money to left wing research institutes won’t achieve it. We must take action to empower our own workers while holding China accountable.
The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) represents an existential threat to the United States. There is broad, bipartisan agreement on this challenge. For decades, China has seized our intellectual property, flooded our country with cheap imports, gutted our industrial base, stolen our jobs, and lured American corporations abroad. With American dollars and technology, they’ve financed a regional and global strategy bent on domination.
China has built its military on the backs of our working class and they appear increasingly willing to use it.
We must be clear-eyed on how we got to this point. China’s assertiveness and persistent predation are only part of the picture. For decades, experts in Washington have enabled the CCP with policy choices that have left our workers out to dry and empowered multi-national corporations to pursue profit at the expense of everything else.
The real sellouts to China are mega billion-dollar corporations that are obsessively wedded to the Chinese market. From Big Tech to Wall Street to Nike, the NBA, and Disney, big business is embracing the values of the CCP. Several multi-national corporations have allegedly taken advantage of forced labor in China and elsewhere, effectively choosing slaves over American workers.
This is shameful. It is wrong. And it holds our country back.
Just this week, we saw new reports describing how Apple, America’s wealthiest company, has caved to the Chinese government time and again. After years of pumping money into China, now Apple is doing the CCP’s bidding. To appease China, Apple won’t even call the iPhone an American product anymore.
Any bill from Congress that focuses on our competitiveness with China must ensure that U.S.-based corporations are required to shift their focus back to where it belongs: American workers and American values.
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There are strong steps that Congress can take to cut China down to size. It starts with addressing slave labor and the multi-national corporations that enable it to persist abroad.
We know that in the Chinese province of Xinjiang, for example, the Uyghur Muslim minority has been forced into concentration camps and their labor exploited by Chinese state-backed businesses, both in Xinjiang and elsewhere. This cheap, forced labor is a big reason why China has become a production powerhouse.
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I’m offering proposals this week to put our workers first. To address slave labor, we should enact a punitive import tariff of 100 percent on all goods that are produced in Xinjiang or that contain materials that originate from that province.
Second, big corporations based in America should be required to certify that their entire supply chain is "slave free" or face stiff penalties.
Then, we should require that all goods originating from a country believed to be a source for forced labor by the Department of Labor be marked as such.
Will Nike be able to sell as many shoes if the label says they come from a place suspected of slave labor? This is how we can change corporate behavior.
If enacted, these measures could be transformative. By purging slave labor from our supply chains, we can isolate China economically and limit its access to rich American firms that fuel its aggression in the Indo-Pacific. And by protecting our domestic industry from exploited labor, we will empower our own workers and create jobs. China cannot hope to compete with American workers on a level playing field.
Since the ruinous decision to allow China into the World Trade Organization, our ballooning trade deficit with China has resulted in the loss of 3.7 million jobs. These were good-paying, stable jobs that helped families grow and communities thrive.
How can we even dream of passing legislation to compete with China if we don’t try to bring these jobs home?
Rather than making a bet on special interests, let’s make a bet on American workers. Let’s give them the opportunity to compete on fair terms through corporate transparency and protective tariffs. That’s how we revitalize our economy and beat China in the decades to come.