Infrastructure Bill Should Benefit America—Not China

Will Coggin, The $2 trillion infrastructure plan may be the mother of all spending bills. And without changes, the major winner is set to be China.

China has huge market shares of the raw materials we will need to repair and rebuild our crumbling infrastructure, from bridges to pipes. China had a 51 percent share of the global steel market in 2018. The US, Canada, and Mexico combined only produced 6 percent. China also controls more than half of the global cement market.

As things stand, much of the $2 trillion in U.S. taxpayer dollars will wind up lining the pockets of China’s big businesses, all of which are part of the Chinese Communist Party’s apparatus.

Instead of transferring a huge amount of wealth from the US to China, lawmakers have an opportunity with this bill to support American manufacturing.

There’s good reason to be skeptical of the quality of Chinese-made materials. Chinese drywall made with cancer-causing chemicals was put into an estimated 100,000 homes between 2001 and 2009, exposing American families to deadly health risks. In the Lumber Liquidators scandal in 2015, Chinese-made laminate flooring exposed Americans to high levels of formaldehyde, another cancer-causing substance.

Chinese-made steel is infamous for being cheap and full of defects. Cutting corners on steel puts the integrity of bridges and other structures at risk of catastrophic failure, which could have deadly results for pedestrians and drivers.

Toys with lead paint, shoddy car tires, deadly contaminated pet food–the list of Chinese products with harmful defects is long.

China’s gains in its share of the global steel market and other areas have been driven by government subsidies and dumping–the deliberate flooding of a market with cheap goods to undercut competition. It’s an issue we’ve seen hit our supply chain in another, even more important area: medicine.

It may shock you to learn that you are almost entirely at the mercy of China to get medicine. According to a federal analysis, China controls 97 percent of our antibiotics and about 80 percent of our generic drugs.

At the beginning of the pandemic, we discovered that much of our personal protective equipment (PPE) is also made in China. And in a global emergency, the Chinese government wasn’t afraid to hold up shipments of masks to other countries, even PPE made by U.S. firms operating in China. China sent defective masks to other countries.

China accounts for about 80 percent of our mined rare earth metals. These are needed to make lithium batteries for electric cars and for the functioning of electronic devices–including military equipment.

In 2018, the Trump administration slapped tariffs on Chinese steel to breathe some life into American steel production. The Biden administration has acknowledged their effectiveness.

Now, the infrastructure bill provides a bigger, $2 trillion opportunity to make more gains on this front. Congress must look at securing more supply chains of goods ranging from cement to medicine to rare earth materials. If we are redefining infrastructure, then manufacturing is a key part of that new definition.

Overreliance on China is a threat to our national security and independence. As one Chinese professor remarked of China’s control over medicine: “Should we reduce the exports, the medical systems of some western countries will not run well.” Given the Chinese government puts its citizens in concentration camps, we shouldn’t risk finding out the hard way.

Will Coggin is the managing director of the American Security Institute, a nonprofit responsible for