In 2020, China’s draconian lockdowns created massive supply chain shortages that rippled throughout the globe almost as fast as COVID-19. For months, Americans faced empty shelves and enormous shipping delays. Two years later, we’re still dealing with the problem, with a new round of Chinese lockdowns threatening to produce yet another wave of disruptions.
While Americans are adapting to a post-pandemic world (something Florida started doing long ago!), the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) is behaving exactly the same now as it did when COVID first appeared in Wuhan. Left-wing journalists initially lauded Beijing’s pandemic response as superior to our own. Today, it’s plain to see that the CCP’s "zero-COVID" policy is keeping China in a perpetual state of emergency — and the rest of the world is going to suffer for it.
Stopping COVID in its tracks was never feasible. Liberal governors and overzealous public health officials tried it in the U.S. and failed. Moreover, omicron has made it virtually impossible, a fact even Anthony Fauci appears to recognize. Unfortunately, the CCP didn’t get the memo. Beijing recently put the entire city of Shanghai under lockdown in an attempt to isolate the virus. This may be perfectly in line with CCP General Secretary Xi Jinping’s emphasis on top-down state control in all aspects of life, but its consequences will extend far beyond China’s borders.
Shanghai is the largest container port in the world and processes a massive 20 percent of Chinese exports. The CCP’s measures have put almost every one of the city’s warehouses, plants, and trucks out of commission, and the port and airport are only functioning in a limited capacity. Cargo is piling up, and it will continue to do so for as long as the lockdown remains in effect.
When Shanghai’s lockdown lifts — which experts predict will occur in June at the earliest — the global supply chain will be overwhelmed by a tidal wave of freight. Industry insiders are saying that the situation is "worse than Wuhan" and may create "the most significant logistics disruption since the start of the pandemic." Americans will doubtlessly feel the impact, which is bad news for working families already struggling with inflation, rising fuel prices, and food shortages.
Well before COVID reached our shores, I made the point that our dependence on Chinese imports is a national liability. It’s why I issued a report in 2019 warning that off-shoring critical industries to China left us economically and militarily vulnerable.
At the time, the report flew in the face of economic ideologues, including now-President Joe Biden, who previously downplayed Beijing’s accession to the World Trade Organization. Today, the accuracy of my warning is painfully obvious. What’s happening in Shanghai only makes it more so. If America doesn’t begin to correct course, we will have no one to blame for the next supply chain crisis but ourselves.
The way forward lies through bringing critical manufacturing and production back to the U.S. and neighboring countries. That means increasing American investments to partners in Central and South America, which are closer to the U.S. than the CCP in geography, interests, and values. It also means implementing robust, targeted industrial policy, which will empower America to compete on the global stage in the creation of semiconductors, pharmaceuticals, rare-earth products, and more.
With two years of crises behind us, and another one just over the horizon, the time has come to wake up and chart a new path toward American resilience. If we let this moment pass, we willingly place ourselves at the mercy of Beijing — and potentially condemn our great nation to a slow, bitter decline.
Republican Marco Rubio represents Florida in the U.S. Senate.