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It’s time to practice social and economic distancing from China

Americans are practicing social distancing to stop the spread of the coronavirus that the Chinese regime’s lies and mismanagement unleashed onto the world. It may also be time to start practicing social — and economic — distancing from China as well.

China’s dictatorship bears ultimate responsibility for the pandemic lockdown that is crushing our economy. Axios reports that if China had acted just three weeks earlier to contain the virus rather than suppress information about it, “the number of coronavirus cases could have been reduced by 95 percent and its geographic spread limited.”

But the ensuing crisis has also exposed just how dependent we have become on China in key sectors of our economy. Case in point: In recent days, the Chinese state news agency Xinhua warned that if the Trump administration is not careful, China could ban pharmaceutical exports and plunge the United States “into the hell of a new coronavirus pneumonia epidemic.” The threat is real. China supplies more than 90 percent of antibiotics used here. It also produces many other drugs and biologics that Americans depend on, including heparin, HIV/AIDS medications, chemotherapy drugs, antidepressants, and treatments for Alzheimer’s disease, diabetes, epilepsy and Parkinson’s disease.

We also depend on China for respirators, surgical masks and other protective gear that doctors and nurses need to deal with the coronavirus. Since the pandemic began, China has ramped up production, but the government has taken over factories that make masks for U.S. companies such as 3M and is hoarding the supply, leaving Americans at greater risk.

Our dependence on China is not just for medicine and devices to deal with this pandemic but also for technology that is critical to our long-term economic and security interests. Take the development of next-generation 5G networks, super-fast cellular technology that the Wall Street Journal reports will soon enable “a world of robot-run factories, remote surgery and driverless vehicles to power a ‘fourth industrial revolution.'” The market for 5G technology is dominated by Huawei, a company linked to the Chinese Communist Party.

The current pandemic has exposed the fact that we are dependent on China for everything from iPhones and computers to clothing and footwear — supply chains that have been disrupted by the coronavirus outbreak. It’s one thing to depend on China for cheap T-shirts and sneakers. It’s another to depend on a brutal communist dictatorship for life-saving drugs and the communications infrastructure that will undergird the 21st-century economy.

So what is the solution?

The Chinese government’s complicity in the coronavirus pandemic is an opportunity for the United States to reevaluate its economic ties to Beijing and develop alternative supply chains for medicines and critical technology. China’s lies about a virus have us hurtling toward a recession. It is time to immunize our economy and national security from our dependence on a deceitful regime.

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Follow Marc A. Thiessen on Twitter, @marcthiessen.