This July 4th, as thousands of patriots march in parades across our great land, they will be waving American flags made in cities like Guangzhou, Shanghai, and Shaoxing. This situation is not without humor -- but there is nothing really funny about the loss of American independence it so painfully symbolizes.
Just consider how much of our economic independence we have lost since China joined the World Trade Organization in 2001 and began flooding our markets with illegally subsidized exports. During that time, we have shuttered more than 50,000 factories and seen more than five million manufacturing jobs disappear. With one manufacturing job creating four to five more jobs in a "multiplier effect," it's no mystery why over 20 million Americans can't find a decent job.
Meanwhile, those lucky enough to have a job face an ever-increasing risk that their companies will be sold off -- and perhaps shipped off lock, stock, and technology -- to China. Companies lost to date range from IBM's computer division, Ford's selloff of Volvo, Nexter Automotive, and Goss Printing to the AMC Movie Theaters, the A123 battery maker, solar panel maker MiaSole, both Chesapeake Energy and Devon Energy, the huge electric power company AES, and the world's largest pork supplier, Smithfield Foods.
American consumers likewise have lost much of their sovereignty in this offshoring process as it has become ever more difficult to buy products not Made in China. To cite but one example: iPhones, iMacs, iPads, iPods -- iconic products of American technology cynically advertised by Apple as "Designed in California" -- are all manufactured in China. Collectively, the result of our Chinese import dependency has been massive trade deficits that have put America trillions of dollars into debt.
China's emergence as America's largest creditor has, in turn, taken a heavy toll on America's political independence. How else can one explain America's thoroughly bipartisan failure to respond forcefully to a wide range of Chinese outrages? These include everything from blatant currency manipulation and a torrent of unsafe products to Beijing's support of rogue regimes like Sudan and Zimbabwe; facilitation of nuclear proliferation in Iran, North Korea, and Pakistan; and brutal human rights violations against the Falun Gong, Tibetans, Uighurs, and pro-democracy advocates.
The failure of the president, in particular, to act forcefully against China's relentless hacking of the computer networks of both the Pentagon and the myriad defense contractors that serve it is particularly distressing. It likewise augurs the loss of our military independence. Indeed, by systematically stealing our most sophisticated weapons systems -- the Patriot missile, the Aegis ballistic missile defense system, the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, to name a few -- China's military has simultaneously saved trillions in research costs and cut decades off its trajectory to become a superpower capable of challenging the U.S.
Of course, it's not just our economic, political, and military independence now being Shanghaied. We are even losing much of our academic independence -- and with it a good chunk of our economic future.
Consider that many of our greatest public universities -- in states like California, Illinois, and Washington -- are admitting more and more Chinese students at higher tuition rates than they charge state residents just to balance their budgets at a time of fiscal stress. For example, at UC-San Diego, Chinese student enrollment increased 12-fold between 2009 and 2011 while at the University of Washington, over 10 percent of its freshman class now comes from mainland China.
In this zero-sum college admissions game, many of the sons and daughters of the taxpayers that have loyally subsidized those universities have been kicked to the curb. Over time, this will put America at a further disadvantage to China in the race to innovate and prosper.
Just what in the name of the Founding Fathers is going on here you may ask? You may also wonder on this Independence Day where Paul Revere is when we need him most.
Well, I can tell you where Paul Revere is not. He is not on a tour bus loaded with Chinese investors crisscrossing this country looking to buy up green cards and pieces of American neighborhoods, factories, and farmland.
If you want to do something about this sad, sorry, and increasingly dangerous situation, forget about writing the White House or Congress -- both are an integral part of the problem. Instead, just stop buying "Made in China" products whenever you possibly can. In this way, every American citizen can help stop supporting a totalitarian nation founded on principles totally antithetical to ours and thereby start this nation back on the road to true independence.
Peter Navarro is a business professor at UC-Irvine and director of the documentary film Death By China, out this month on DVD. www.deathbychina.com
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