The Los Angeles and Long Beach harbors in California have traditionally been responsible for over a third of the cargo that is imported into the country, with a sizeable amount of that coming from China. Now, in 2021, partly due to the pandemic either directly or indirectly, an import crisis has emerged. Currently there are massive lines of container ships that reach as far as one can see. Some ships have been waiting in line for three weeks while waiting for a chance to unload their cargo. This disorganization is spiking shipping costs and transferring price increases to consumers who are already being smothered by inflation.
Joel Kotkin of Quillette points out that this situation is effectively neutralizing the wage gains that many people found as the country emerged from pandemic lockdowns. The effect is being seen globally, not just in America. Germany and Great Britain face similar challenges that should serve as a warning for all of us. The shortages are caused by lack of workers and lack of infrastructure, but furthermore, the shortages underscore how dramatic a supply disruption from China alone poses to the entire globe. If it’s happening by chance today, just imagine China doing this intentionally in the future.
Kotkin points to critical supplies that are China exclusives such as car parts, cheap grains, medical equipment and computer chips, and highlights how entire industries can become crippled when these supplies don’t reach America’s shores. Kotkin also reminds readers of the unfortunate generations-long trend of corporations to move their manufacturing centers to China and away from the U.S. in order to lower costs. The effects have been devastating for America, losing 15% of total global manufacturing share since 2004. As a consequence, it’s estimated that 3.7 million jobs have been lost in the U.S. to foreign lands.
What’s really scary though, is the idea of an ever militaristic and expansionistic China weaponizing their monopoly on the global supply chain. America, and many other nations, have found themselves under China’s ugly thumb. Not as much a consequence of Chinese Communist Party ingenuity than a festering feebleness that we created ourselves. The American culture for too long has failed to value hard manual labor, and promoted clean cubicle living over getting one’s hands dirty. Parents were instructed to send their children to college in order to be successful, and any which took up a trade instead were pitied.
America is responsible for creating the monster that is China, and the only way to secure our future is to invest and promote industry at home. We need to end the culture that suggests honest trades like plumbing, carpentry or harvesting are merely leftover occupations for the lower classes.
Author: Michael West