Most of our electronics and gadgets (and their components) are made overseas. Manufacturing in the United States, we are told, is too costly and can’t compete with low-cost countries.
We are told, in the age of globalization, that President Donald Trump’s slogan “buy American, hire American” isn’t only incredibly antiquated, but also dumb and dangerous.
Under the banner of free trade, millions of U.S. manufacturing jobs were shipped to China. Before long, the entire supply chain of electronics shifted to China and its neighbor countries. Today, it’s impossible to make a television set in the United States without imported parts.
U.S. companies make big money. We enjoy the cheap electronics. The Chinese like to sell, we like to buy. The free market is at work. All is good, right?
What if the supply of electronics is disrupted by a natural disaster or a prolonged war? For example, the LCD display market is absolutely dominated by manufacturers in South Korea, China, Taiwan, and Japan. LCD screens aren’t only used in TVs and gadgets. They are used everywhere, in items ranging from children’s toys to the Air Force’s F-35 fighter jets.
The growth of a child isn’t likely stunted for lack of an LCD screen (there is evidence that the opposite is true), but a fighter jet can be grounded for that exact reason. Is it in our best interest to leave something of strategic importance entirely to someone else?
Worse, what if hostile actors install spy hardware in those products? The U.S. military bought tens of thousands of surveillance cameras made in China and installed them at military bases all over the country. Are we sure that we are the only ones watching?
Computers with spy hardware made in China may long have been a reality, according to Bloomberg’s BusinessWeek. On a particular U.S. brand of motherboard made in China, a malicious chip that wasn’t part of the original design was found. U.S. investigators said the chip was inserted during the manufacturing process, possibly by China’s People’s Liberation Army.
BusinessWeek’s story alleged the servers containing the chip were found in Department of Defense data centers, the CIA’s drone operations, and the onboard networks of U.S. Navy warships. Thirty companies, including a major bank, government contractors, Amazon, and Apple, also were affected. (Amazon and Apple both denied they had been affected.)
The personal information of consumers wasn’t the target; acquiring U.S. corporate and government secrets appears to be the goal, according to a U.S. official. What information had been obtained by the Chinese through the chip, however, remains unclear.
Over the past three decades, we were sold a bill of goods that globalization was a boon to the U.S. economy and we should be thankful for it. It is a lie. We lost millions of manufacturing jobs, factories were closed, assembly lines were shut down, and furnaces were idled. The blue-collar middle class was decimated.
What are we left with? Cheap electronics and an opioid crisis. What’s more, we outsourced our information and national security to our enemies. To think every business partner we have worked with is as benign and sincere as we are is Pollyanna-ish at best and plainly inane at worst. Yet, that’s what we have been doing since the 1980s!
Fortunately, the tide is turning. With Trump in the White House, America’s self-inflicted wounds in the name of free trade may have a chance to heal. China’s day of reckoning may be nearer. A few years after President Ronald Reagan left office, that evil empire, the Soviet Union, collapsed like a house of cards.
It may be overly optimistic to say China will follow the same trajectory, but it’s not impossible.
Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.