Coronavirus

Why You Shouldn't Trust Anyone Who Claims 80 Percent of America's Drugs Come From China

A misleading statistic has made the rounds. But it’s based on a misreading of a government report that says no such thing.

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While reading about the COVID-19 outbreak, you've probably encountered this particularly shocking statistic at one time or another: 80 percent of America's pharmaceutical drug supply comes from China.

It's a statistic that has made the rounds in right-wing publications for a while—offered as proof that China-heavy global supply chains are putting Americans at risk—but it has also popped up in mainstream outlets, including in pieces published in Politico and The Atlantic. Wherever it is deployed, the stat carries an unstated implication: What if China decides to cut us off in the middle of a pandemic? Could America face a dramatic shortage of key pharmaceutical drugs at the moment when we are most in need? And that distorted claim that says America has been too reliant on China has been seized by politicians like Sen. Josh Hawley (R–Mo.) as evidence that globalization has undermined America's pandemic response.

In fact, because the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not track the volume of drug imports from any foreign countries, it is impossible to say with any certainty how much of America's pharmaceuticals come from China. Or from anywhere else.

But that has not stopped politicians and media outlets from recycling this shocking statistic. That statistic is based on an inaccurate presentation of a single government report that says no such thing—and, in fact, suggests the opposite. At very best, it omits crucial context. At worst, it simply misleads. One expert who has repeated this stat in numerous publications and in congressional testimony refuses to share her source for that shocking bit of information.

The figure, in other words, is both misleading and mistaken. And the politicians and pundits who have seized on it have done so in order to make it seem as if they know with great certainty a supposed fact that no one actually knows.

II.

Tracing this "80 percent of American drugs come from China" claim back to its source reveals a game of "whisper down the lane," in which a rather innocuous piece of data about the global manufacturing base for pharmaceutical drugs has been inaccurately summarized and stripped of important context.

In December, when the U.S. and China signed the "phase one" trade deal—and when the coronavirus outbreak was still very much in the background—Politico published a story (with some reporting from the South China Morning Post) framed around the idea that "U.S. policymakers" were worried that China could "weaponize" its drug exports to gain leverage in a trade dispute.

The piece was designed to scare. "The U.S. relies on imported medicines from China in a big way," authors Doug Palmer and Finbarr Bermingham wrote right at the top. "Antibiotics, over-the-counter pain meds and the stuff that stops itching and swelling—a lot of it is imported from China."

How much is a lot? "In all, 80 percent of the U.S. supply of antibiotics are made in China," they wrote, linking back to a press release from Sen. Chuck Grassley (R–Iowa).

But that's not what the press release says.

Grassley's statement was publicizing a letter Grassley sent on August 9 to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the FDA, asking them to conduct more inspections of foreign drug manufacturing facilities to make sure they meet American standards.

"Unbeknownst to many consumers…80 percent of Active Pharmaceutical Ingredients are produced abroad, the majority in China and India," Grassley wrote.

There's the first bit of context collapse: the authors of the Politico piece merged Grassley's "80 percent…are produced abroad" into "80 percent…are made in China."

All of this also raises another question: Where is Grassley getting that information? His letter sources that claim to a 2016 Government Accountability Office report which itself cited FDA data on pharmaceutical manufacturers around the world. And that report makes it clear that the U.S. has a diverse supply chain for drugs that goes well beyond India and China.

"Nearly 40 percent of finished drugs and approximately 80 percent of active pharmaceutical ingredients (API) are manufactured in registered establishments in more than 150 countries," is how the GAO summed up America's pharmaceutical supply chain.

In two jumps, we've gone from "80 percent of American drugs are manufactured in more than 150 countries around the world" to "80 percent of drugs come from two countries" to "80 percent of drugs come from China."

Now, a further complication. The FDA only tracks drug manufacturing facilities—not the supply chains of specific drugs.

That "lack of structural transparency and available supply chain data about drugs," researchers at the University of Minnesota wrote last month, is one of the reasons why making accurate assessments about potential drug shortages is difficult. Indeed, it was this same bit of missing information that Grassley was encouraging the FDA to address back in August.

It does seem like a reasonable thing to ask of the FDA. But for now, the lack of actual evidence means that no one can say with any certainty what percentage of America's drugs come from which foreign countries.

The FDA's most recent report on drug supply chains, published in October, makes clear that the agency does "not currently know whether API manufacturing facilities are actually producing the drug, or in what volume," and therefore it is impossible to determine "what portion of U.S. drug consumption is dependent on APIs from China or India."

That's because many drug manufacturers make their products in various places around the world for reasons that range from the cost of labor to the availability of raw materials to access to consumer markets.

What the FDA does track, again, is manufacturing facilities that export drugs to America. In that October report, when the agency took its most recent statistical snapshot of the United States' pharmaceutical supply chains, here's what it found:

Source: FDA; Safeguarding Pharmaceutical Supply Chains in a Global Economy, October 2019

There are nearly 2,000 manufacturing facilities around the world that provide pharmaceutical drugs to the United States. Of those, 230 are in China. There are 510 in the United States and 1,048 in the rest of the world. Even though the number of manufacturers in the United States is at a historical low, the supply chain is clearly quite diverse.

At the same time, the FDA took a narrower look at the supply chains for the 370 drugs listed on the World Health Organization's (WHO) list of "essential medicines," which includes "anesthetic, antibacterial, antidepressant, antiviral, cardiovascular, anti-diabetic, and gastrointestinal agents." The results were similar: 21 percent of production facilities are in the United States, with 15 percent of them in China, and 64 percent located somewhere else in the world.

There are only three drugs on the WHO essential medicines list whose active ingredients are sourced entirely in China, the FDA found. They are capreomycin and streptomycin, which are used to treat tuberculosis, and sulfadiazine, which is used to treat trachoma, among other things.

Here's another way to look at the question. According to the United Nations' COMTRADE database of world trade flows, the United States imported more than $115 billion of finished pharmaceutical products in 2018, the most recent year for which complete data is available. Only $1.5 billion of that total came from China.

Nevertheless, Grassley's letter and the underlying FDA data have been misinterpreted to give the impression that the U.S. is singularly dependent on China when the data actually show quite the opposite.

When Reason contacted the authors of the Politico piece, Palmer said he wasn't sure why they'd linked to Grassley's release.

"I don't recall why we linked to that letter since it talk[ed] about API production rather than finished pharmaceuticals," he wrote in an email. "It looks like a mistake. But it does express concern in Congress about U.S. dependence on China in the pharmaceutical sector."

Unfortunately, that misinformation has fully entered the mainstream through other channels too. In a piece published in The Atlantic earlier this month, Uri Friedman notes that "about 80 percent of the active pharmaceutical ingredients in American drugs come from China and India," and sources that information to a report from the Council on Foreign Relations.

And what does that report say? "It is believed that about 80 percent of the basic components used in U.S. drugs, known as active pharmaceutical ingredients (APIs), come from China and India, though the exact dependence remains unknown since no reliable API registry exists."

Follow the link: It goes back to that same Grassley press release from August. Again, the article is inferring a conclusion that is not supported by the underlying data—and The Atlantic left out crucial context about lack of reliable information that was included in the Council on Foreign Relations' report.

III.

Naturally, China hawks are seizing the misinformation, and the larger coronavirus crisis, to push for the confrontation they've wanted all along.

In that same Atlantic article, Peter Navarro, President Donald Trump's top trade adviser, says the coronavirus outbreak should be a "'wake-up call' about American vulnerabilities in a globalized world." Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, who along with Navarro has been the driver of Trump's crusade to raise tariffs and reduce U.S. trade with the rest of the world, has said the coronavirus outbreak might be a good thing because it will "help to accelerate the return of jobs to North America."

In Congress, Sen. Josh Hawley (R–Mo.) has, unsurprisingly, taken the lead. "It is becoming clear to me that both oversight hearings and additional legislation are necessary to determine the extent of our reliance on Chinese production and protect our medical product supply chain," Hawley wrote in a letter to the FDA in February. He called America's supposed dependence on Chinese-made drugs "inexcusable" and appears to be laying the groundwork for some sort of pharmaceutical-industrial policy.

And at the center of that idea is a woman named Rosemary Gibson.

Gibson is a senior fellow at the Hastings Center, a nonpartisan bioethics research center, and the author of China RX, a 2018 book detailing "the risks of America's dependence on China for medicine." In recent months, she's become the darling of right-wing media and politicians who see the coronavirus outbreak as an opportunity to ramp up a U.S.-China cold war. "All Our Drugs To Treat The Coronavirus Depend on Chinese Suppliers" noted a headline in The American Conservative on February 17 in which she argued that "we depend on China for 80 percent of the core components" that go into U.S. drugs. She had used the same "80 percent" stat in a December 13 article too, both times without attribution. In the December Politico piece highlighting how policy makers were worried about China "weaponizing" drug exports, Gibson was the first expert quoted. "Medicines can be used as a weapon of war against the United States," she warned.

On March 12, when Gibson was called to testify before the Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship, she argued that "The United States faces an existential threat posed by China's control over the global supply of the ingredients in thousands of essential generic medicines." Those generics account for 90 percent of the drugs used in hospitals and sold in drug stores she said.

That sounds bad. But how many of America's generic drugs come from China? That would be 9 percent, Gibson said in the same testimony.

A bigger concern would seem to be India, which manufacturers 25 percent of America's generic drugs, according to Gibson. India imports a large amount of the ingredients in those drugs from China, which helps to demonstrate why it's so difficult to put a number on exactly how much of America's drug supply comes from China. Global supply chains care little for national borders.

Still trying to get to the bottom of the "80 percent" claim, I called Gibson last month to discuss her research and recent congressional testimony.

I came away from the conversation with the sense that Gibson is motivated by a sincere belief that Americans' health is put at risk by shoddily-made drugs often manufactured overseas and that the FDA is not doing enough to prevent problems—or to collect the necessary data to identify where those problems might be. After the past few weeks have put a spotlight on the agency's bureaucratic malfeasance and myopia, it is easy to be sympathetic to such arguments.

Gibson says the FDA's data about drug manufacturing facilities is "misleading" because the agency fails to track actual supply lines from where the first chemical compounds are produced to where active ingredients are assembled to where the final products are shipped. This is pretty much the only thing everyone can agree on: that the FDA's data is severely lacking context. That context might show the true complexity of pharmaceutical supply chains that wrap around the world, or the China-dependency that has nationalists worried.

But when it came to the question of how she knows that America is thoroughly dependent on China, Gibson was less transparent. I asked about the statistics she'd used in her pieces for The American Conservative and in her congressional testimony. Where, I asked, did she find these data that not even the FDA is tracking?

"I asked very fine people with 150 years [of] experience in making drugs," she said. "I went around the table. First person said, '90 percent, conservatively.' Next person said, '90 percent.' Next person said, '90 percent.'"

I'm sorry, I interjected, but if you can just clarify for me: Who were you speaking to? Where was this?

"These are people I know who actually make generic drugs or their components," she said. "They know the best place, or the only place, where you can get" the necessary components.

So if I wanted to confirm that information on the record, how would I find it? "No, you can't find that," Gibson said. "No. I haven't seen that."

We went around a few more times: Who is telling you this? Is there another on-the-record source—a study, a paper, anything—that says this? But the answer was always the same: no.

Eventually, it became clear that the data weren't the most important thing.

"Let's put it at 90 percent of the chemical and other ingredients needed to make components—needed to make our generic drugs—are sourced from China," Gibson said. "And if you want to…say it's 75 [percent], that's fine."

But hold on, doesn't that distinction matter? Is the answer just that we don't know?

"Well, what we do know is it's enormous. Huge," she said. "This is what they said: '90 percent, 90 percent, 90 percent.'"

Who said?

"These are very seasoned people who have worked in manufacturing. It's like the best chefs. You're asking the best chefs 'I need cinnamon or I need turmeric or mace or nutmeg. Where does it come from?'" she said. "They know that, but it's not going to be written down in a book."

(Cinnamon is exported by lots of countries all around the world —places as diverse as Madagascar, the Netherlands, and Vietnam. And those numbers are indeed written down.)

To be fair to Gibson, it is frustrating that the FDA does not track this information. But that's no reason to substitute speculation for fact. And it is certainly possible that Gibson has sources providing this data point to her. But her unwillingness to identify those sources should be enough to make observers question the conclusions she is drawing from them. At the very least, you might expect Congress to want to hear this information firsthand from one of her sources.

And if the information is coming from industry insiders, as she suggests, and if they are as worried as Gibson says they are, one is left to wonder why they don't do the prudent thing and shift their supply chains. No one is forcing them to manufacture in China.

But soon, someone might be forcing them to manufacture here. Whether the sourcing is sincere or not, there's little doubt that Gibson's research has become a tool for China hawks like Hawley, who blasted out excerpts from her March 12 testimony in a press release announcing his introduction of the Medical Supply Chain Security Act. Hawley says the bill would give greater authority to the FDA to get information from drug manufacturers about where they source ingredients, including raw materials, "and any other details the FDA deems relevant to assess the security of the U.S. medical product supply chain."

That basic idea was incorporated into the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act), the massive $2.3 trillion stimulus bill passed by Congress and signed by Trump last month. Under section 3010 of the law, HHS is directed to asses "the dependence of the United States…on critical drugs and devices that are sourced or manufactured outside of the United States." Regardless of what the fact-finding mission might uncover, in another part of the bill Congress has already directed the department to include in its report "strategies to…encourage domestic manufacturing."

It's a telling bit of legislative text. In one fell swoop, Congress admitted that the federal government is ignorant about the extent to which drug supply lines are dependent on China—so much for that 80 percent figure that's been repeated so much—and simultaneously announced its plans to change how those supply chains work.

What might those changes look like? In her testimony on March 12, Gibson outlined a few ideas. She wants the federal government to be intimately involved in process of manufacturing pharmaceuticals, covering capital costs for drug companies to build out manufacturing facilities "for domestic production of essential generic drugs and their core components" and controlling drug pricing to ensure that companies were making only "a fair rate of return" off the federal investment.

"Any federal investment in assuring essential generic drugs should be considered a national security asset that cannot be sold to companies whose governments are strategic competitors to the United States," says Gibson. "This investment will help reinvigorate the U.S. generic manufacturing base and the capacity for the United States to eventually achieve a minimum level of self-sufficiency in the making of essential medicines vital to the nation's health security."

Tim Morrison, a senior fellow at the nationalist Hudson Institute and former member of the Trump White House's National Security Council, told lawmakers at the same March 12 hearing that the federal government must intervene to prop up domestic pharmaceutical suppliers. "The term 'industrial policy' is considered by some economic theorists and purists to be dirty words," Morrison said. "I ask you to think about all of the tools of economic statecraft you can use to support American producers in strategic industries."

Whatever comes next, it is likely to be a bipartisan process. In an op-ed for The Washington Post last year, Reps. Anna Eshoo (D–Calif.) and Adam Schiff (D–Calif.) cited the "80 percent" stat without proper context and linked to Gibson's research to argue that "China has a virtual monopoly on the ingredients required to manufacture critical medicines."

IV.

Bad facts make bad laws. Add into the mix a crisis and already high anti-China fervor within some segments of American politics. Whether due to context collapse—confusing all drug imports with drug imports from China, as some publications have done—or a panic-driven response to an unprecedented public health crisis, it appears that Congress has already decided to pursue a policy response based on theorized potential drug shortages that have yet to materialize.

"Instead of trying to get the FDA to figure out if it's 75 [percent] or 90 percent, the reality is we gotta have the capability to make some of this here because countries will shut their doors," Gibson told me.

Will they? India cut export capacity by about 10 percent in response to the pandemic, but so far they are (thankfully) the exception rather than the rule. Initial fears that China would cut off exports of medical equipment in order to hoard supplies for their own battle with the coronavirus have proven to be unfounded.

To the degree that drug shortages are likely to happen, experts say they will be the result of spiking worldwide demand—not countries cutting off trade.

"The pandemic itself may lead to increased demand for normal uses of certain drugs, such as acetaminophen to treat fever, and the crisis may also prompt hoarding," researchers from the University of Minnesota warned in a study released last week. "In addition, drug production may be slowed or stopped in countries hit hard by the virus."

Most drug companies are positioned to survive short-term supply shocks, J.P. Duffy, an attorney who specializes in the pharmaceutical trade, told European Pharmaceutical Review, a trade publication. That's because most have a stockpile intended to last for six months to a year.

Like the University of Minnesota researchers, Duffy believes logistical problems are likely to be the cause of shortages—not political or manufacturing issues.

That's why diverse supply chains are important, so that parts of the world unaffected by a major catastrophe can supply goods to areas more hard hit. The coronavirus outbreak may give some companies good reason to seek more diverse supply chains in the future. But it should not be seen as an argument for forcing pharmaceutical companies to make their products exclusively in the United States. Indeed, the question that policy makers should be asking isn't "where do these drugs come from" but "can we be sure we'll get them when they are needed." Leave the specifics to the private sector.

Even at the height of the COVID-19 outbreak in China, when many factories were shut down across the country, the Food and Drug Administration reported that America was facing a shortage of exactly one drug. After checking with the producers of more than 180 imported drugs to assess the state of their supply chains in the midst of the outbreak, FDA Commissioner Stephen Hahn released a statement saying that "none of these firms have reported any shortage to date. Also, these drugs are considered non-critical drugs."

Meanwhile, the global supply chain for pharmaceutical drugs appears to be more diverse than the "80 percent from China" statistic suggests. There are only three drugs on the WHO's "essential medicines" list that the United States sources solely from China, according to FDA data. Chinese drug makers—while growing in recent years—account for only 13 percent of the global manufacturing base that supplies pharmaceuticals to America.

To be sure, there is plenty of space for American policy makers to criticize China's handling of the COVID-19 outbreak. China's leaders failed to communicate the seriousness of the disease at an early stage, and even now appear to be covering up the extent of the destruction the coronavirus has caused. There are documented cases of Chinese-made drugs failing to meet FDA standards that may call for greater scrutiny being applied to certain producers. The coronavirus pandemic may give some pharmaceutical companies a good reason to reconsider their supply chains.

But the fear that China would deliberately withhold drugs and other crucial equipment does not appear to be based on information that's any more solid than the claim that 80 percent of America's pharmaceuticals rely on Chinese suppliers.

There remains a big difference between fearmongering about China cutting off Americans from life-saving drugs and the reality of a pandemic that is stressing supply chains everywhere. The former serves as a call for political action. The latter, for simply letting markets work.

Whatever policies are crafted after the pandemic, they should be written with that context in mind—and with an awareness of the global reality of modern medicine. America's supposed dependence on China has been overstated, but it does remain absolutely true that the United States imports most of the drugs that Americans consume. That, too, is an argument for keeping global supply chains open. It's a reason for maintaining good diplomatic relations with other countries—not a reason to pursue autarky and continue an unnecessary trade war over fears that may not materialize.

"The world's COVID-19 patients and medical experts need their policymakers to allow vital supplies and equipment to flow unimpeded from one country to another, wherever needed, as the crisis continues to evolve," writes Chad Bown, senior fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics, a trade-focused think tank. "Global cooperation is the only way countries can minimize the devastation COVID-19 is leaving in its path."

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  1. China should hire better writers

    1. Or at least hire writers that are a little less verbose.

      1. Hear, here!

      2. They pay him by the word.

      3. True dat.

        In fact, because the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not track the volume of drug imports from any foreign countries, it is impossible to say with any certainty how much of America’s pharmaceuticals come from China. Or from anywhere else.

        Apparently nobody else tracks it accurately either.

        So, what’s the point of all the words?

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    2. So you are saying the writing is wrong?

      1. If it’s wrong, I don’t want to be write!

    3. Reason Then: There are no possible downsides to outsourcing American manufacturing to Emperor Xi! Outsourcing is win-win!
      Reason Now: It’s totally not true that we’re dependent on Emperor Xi for our drugs!

      The #GlobalismIsOverParty is *so* much fun.

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    5. He did great! I know I’m convinced because it’s more words than I want to read on the subject. And he’s made it doubly read-proof by being boring and meaningless. Good work, quantitative and qualitative doubt-vaccination.

      Another embarrassment for Reason.

  2. Jesus Christ what a long winded story. Having worked in big Pharma manufacturing I have seen the drums of chemicals from China and India used. When they started database of buyers getting sinus meds to stop Meth I laughed and said oh great now the Mexicans will get just the Pseudoephedrine from China in pure form in 55 gallon drums. And that is exactly what happened flooding even more meth in the US than all the hillbillies in WV could have ever made from sinus meds.

    1. It doesn’t change the fact that it is frustrating how these simple statistics get a life of their own. The 3 of 5 women will be raped at college number. US needs 1 Million ventilators. etc

      It sucks that a terrible number gets passed on with lazy link backs, and it takes a huge debunking piece to get to the bottom of the facts. If only the supposed Fact Check sites actually spent their time on this type of investigation.

  3. the authors of the Politico piece merged Grassley’s “80 percent…are produced abroad” into “80 percent…are made in China.”

    Well, damn! Is he saying that Politico lies? That they make up stuff and just print it as real?
    Whodathunkit?
    Next thing we know he will claim the sun rises in the east.
    (but to be sure, it is actually the horizon dropping)

    1. And Chicken Little was right, the sky is falling. Of course it’s always falling, if it wasn’t, it would drift off into space and we would really be screwed.

      1. And we’re always at war with Eastasia!

      2. So there’s invisible pillars holding up the sky?

        More like the sky is trying to fly away and gravity lassoed it in place.

    2. Politico…HorseShitico…

  4. TLDR; at least not ALL of it.

  5. What might those changes look like? In her testimony on March 12, Gibson outlined a few ideas. She wants the federal government to be intimately involved in process of manufacturing pharmaceuticals, covering capital costs for drug companies to build out manufacturing facilities “for domestic production of essential generic drugs and their core components” and controlling drug pricing to ensure that companies were making only “a fair rate of return” off the federal investment.

    Gee, more government control and price fixing. What could possibly go wrong?

    1. Worked great in the seventies, didn’t it?

      1. All that gas stayed right where is was and the cities (‘news centers’) did without.
        The guy with ‘Moderation’ as a handle was here suggesting we plump for ‘smart government’.
        Ha and ha.

        1. That dude’s a fucking moron.

          1. When I hear an obvious leftist declare themselves a moderate, I know they are almost certainly a delusional idiot.

    2. Cynic, your instincts regarding government economic controls is excellent. But as a cynic, you’re missing the point of the text you quote. The point, is that Big Pharma is looking to get huge subsides based on unsubstantiated data.

      As someone who appreciates the dear departed Harry Browne’s book “Why Government Doesn’t Work” and being a government cynic/realist, I initially suspected Democrat politicians getting money from the Chinese (one way or another, e.g. Joe and Hunter Biden) created this ruse to throw mud on Trump’s trade negotiations with China and get Trump to back down. Now thanks to Boem’s excellent article, I believe it was created by Big Pharma to get subsides from the government. But I’m sure the Democrats China influences are happy with it as well.

      While I believe in free trade, I see Trump as using tariffs (admittedly a tax on US citizens) to pressure China into getting rid of their trade restrictions, as he has said. That would be a win win for the US and China (more so for Chinese citizens IMHO), but a loss for Chinese politicians who essentially use their power to take from ordinary citizens to benefit from their one sided trade policy and domestic policy whereby the politically connected become rich at Chinese citizen expense. So people buying from China, facilitate Chinese politicians engaging in milking their citizens, and getting a cut of that milk. It’s like buying stolen goods and immoral to some extent IMHO.

  6. the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not track the volume of drug imports

    With all due respect, just what is it that the FDA actually does?

    1. Well-well look. I already told you: I deal with the goddamn customers so the engineers don’t have to! I have people skills; I am good at dealing with people. Can’t you understand that? What the hell is wrong with you people?

    2. The FDA controls and kills Americans while helping divvy up the pounds of flesh the rent-seeking medical mafia extracts from us.

    3. Obstruct and annoy?

    4. Sorry for the late response, but the purpose of the FDA, like all government agencies, is to attend to the interests and wealth of the elites and ensure the power of government is wielded for their benefit. This can take many forms.

  7. You kind of lost me after having to specifically blame right-wing media first, with a tempered, “and oh, btw, mainstream outlets like Atlantic and Politico did, too.” I mean: a) what was the point of differentiating rather than just indicating media outlets, and b) do you not consider the Atlantic and Politico to not be left-leaning outlets?

    1. I really wouldn’t use the word leaning – – – – – – – – – –

      1. LOL! I was trying to be diplomatic about it, but you are right.

  8. While I appreciate the attempt at contextualization, the bottom line is China is the new Soviet Union and should be treated as such.

    A pandemic started there. This is not necessarily their fault but they lost any benefit of the doubt when they tried to cover it up and arrest doctors who tried to notify the world. As if this wasn’t enough, the WHO ignored information from Taiwan as early as December. Next thing we know 10 MILLION North Americans are out of work because of this.

    THIS is what we should be reacting to.

    But I eagerly await articles about ‘did the Wuhan virus hurt us economically?’

    1. You mean “Did Trump’s response to the Wuhan virus hurt us economically”, right?

      1. Right.

        1. In case you’re being serious, that’s a sarc response.

          1. We all know it’s coming, it’s just a question of which Reason contributor does it first.

            1. Indeed.

      2. Maybe, maybe not; but the response of CONGRESS for damn sure hurt us. And will continue to do so for years, not weeks.

    2. ” the bottom line is China is the new Soviet Union and should be treated as such.”

      Reason: There are *no* downsides to enriching Emperor Xi. Anyone suggesting otherwise is a racist and opposed to free markets. Liberty means offshoring your slave labor to save a nickel on an air conditioner.

  9. “80 Percent of America’s Drugs Come From China”

    translation; “I got the impression somewhere that a drug or drugs that I use, and would be miserable without, comes from China, and I’m scared.”

    Not unreasonable, but not a basis for policy either.

    OTOH; the Chinese, as a matter of official policy, cheat, cut corners, lie, and steal. So explain to me again, why are we doing business with them?

    1. The Globalists do business with foreign slave labor to transfer wealth from the US working class to themselves.

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  11. “whisper down the lane,” ??

    It’s called telephone. Stop being gay.

    1. It’s also called telegraph, but that name is a bit outdated. I’ve also heard it called Chinese whispers, which might be the most fitting name in this instance. When I first learned of the game when I was a kid, it was called gossip.

      Yeesh, how many names does this game have?

  12. When I first read about this, it was raw materials and pre-cursors. Whichever, the point stands that China is interfering with supply chains at this time. Never let a crisis go to waste.

    https://nypost.com/2020/04/05/trump-admin-weighs-legal-action-over-alleged-chinese-hoarding-of-ppe/

  13. Good article. I appreciate this type of in-depth reporting. A couple of constructive criticism — there seems to be a few times that you switch between talking about drugs, finished drugs, and individual active ingredients. It’s also not very clear if these percentages refer to number of ingredients on the label, the mass in any given pill, the number of pills, etc. These things make it more difficult still to understand the limited information that is out there.

  14. Why does ‘reason’ love China? What is the quid pro quo?

    1. They’re in collaboration with Emperor Xi to enrich themselves and impoverish the American working class.

    2. China say, “Me love Reason long time”.

      1. lol

    3. Koch Industries relies entirely on China for its materials sourcing, and also sells extensively into the Chinese market, particularly to the communist totalitarian Chinese government. Same reason they threw a 3 year long tantrum about the Iran deal getting stuffed up their ass.

  15. If 80% of global drugs come from China, that seems only fair since 80% of the pandemics do, too.

    1. Winner.
      #CCPVirus

  16. This article criticizes Grassley for saying that 80% of US drugs come from China then spends enormous time and effort not telling us what percentage of drugs come from China. Drugs have active ingredients. All drugs are not the same, someone said that there are essential medications. In terms of drug weight or tablet count, we use a lot more antibiotics and blood pressure medicine than drugs to treat lupus. Of the essential drugs, what percent of each drug comes from China? For example, what percentage of losarten or atorvastatin consumed in the US comes from China? If the Chinese government cut off drug shipments to the US, how many people would suffer one or more drugs? Why the hell don’t we know how many pills/doses/tons of X come into the country? US Customs receives a lot of import manifests. Why not measure the drugs?

    1. “This article criticizes Grassley for saying that 80% of US drugs come from China then spends enormous time and effort not telling us what percentage of drugs come from China.”

      Bingo. The whole article is a red herring.

      Yes, maybe not 80%. Maybe 75%. Maybe 90%.

      The precise number isn’t the point. He blathers on about the supposed unknowability of the precise number to distract from the relevant issue – Should we avoid being dependent on enemy dictatorships for our medical supplies?

      Most Americans think so. Reason thinks not. The difference is in the “we”.

      Nationalist Americans see “we” and think Americans. Reason sees “we” and thinks the Globalist ruling class, and considers Slave Emperor Xi their partner in “free” trade and not an enemy.

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  18. The most alarming aspect of this pandemic, to me, is the absolute fealty the media and commentariat swear to China. I thought it was only assholes like Lebron James lamenting their revenue stream when criticizing China. It turns out a lot more people’s interests are tethered to China rather than the health of their own nation. I would like to think that there will be a reckoning for China, but who am I kidding? You have morons in this country who believe the infection rates coming out of China but not in the USA because Orange Man Bad.

  19. Yea, I couldn’t finish the article either. But let’s for the sake of argument (I love to argue) say that we do indeed import 80% of our drugs from China. Then, all the ranting and raving aside, what exactly is the proposal by which we stop doing that and start making them here? Do we simply ban their importation? Well if we do that, the immediate effect will be a severe shortage! The 20% we don’t import will be all we have. The price will skyrocket. It will indeed spur domestic production but not nearly enough to make up the 80%. Prices will stay high. We’ll have to make do with less of the drugs. How are we better off with less?

  20. Regarding “autarky” – I don’t suppose you remember the OPEC oil embargo of the 1970s.

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  22. This article is an example of the liberaltarian infection at reason. On the one hand there are right wing sites (The Federalist? National Review? the Drudge Report?) and on the other hand there are objective mainstream news sites like the Atlantic and Politico.

    Roflmao.

    The sites and journalists too many reason contributors would love to fluff are left wing sites. That you want to fluff them reduces your objectivity and credibility as a news outlet.

    1. Objective mainstream news sites like the Atlantic and Politico? Did you REALLY just write that?

      Wow! I had no idea that COVID-19 could cause severe perceptional deficits.

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  24. So the MAR 4 posting “In an article in Xinhua, one of the Chinese Communist Party’s mouthpieces, Beijing threatened that it can impose pharmaceutical export controls after which America will be “plunged into the mighty sea of coronavirus.”” is just so much Bullshit, then?

  25. In fact, because the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not track the volume of drug imports from any foreign countries, it is impossible to say with any certainty how much of America’s pharmaceuticals come from China.

    In fact, because the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not track baseball statistics, it is impossible to say with any certainty how many home runs Mike Trout hit in 2019.

  26. You know what else carries “unstated implications”, Mr. Boehm?
    Calling The Atlantic “mainstream” while tossing out that there somehow exist “right-wing media”.

  27. IRRELEVANT!!!!!!!!!! Jingoism > Capitalism.

    China is the ENEMY. No American company should have ever been permitted to invest in China, in any respect, period. Only greedy scoundrels and treasonous traitors elevate economic “freedom” over America’s national interests. I have even less use for those types than I do for deranged leftists

  28. The author seems to have information on right wing cabals that have been planning a cold war with China for years. Instead of just dropping that into the piece randomly, how about specifically backing it up? I don’t know anybody anxious for such a war and certainly haven’t read anything in support of one.
    I have read plenty of pieces about the growing threat China has proven to be across Asia and the world and how ignoring it only puts us in greater danger.
    Sorry Reason, free trade is a good thing but that is and has never been what our trade with China was. They’ve proven repeatedly how little they care about their own people and how willing they are to inflict horrific punishments on those that step out of line, when they can. The genie is out of the bottle. China is toast.

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