Martin Sheen narrates this documentary, “Death by China,” which isn’t about China-bashing, but about fair market and the threatening rise of China. Directed by Peter Navarro, the documentary opens today at the Laemmle Pasadena Playhouse 7.
Consider how we trade with China even though we don’t have any working agreements in place regarding copyrights, trademarks and patents. Consider we have 25 million unemployed Americans, but we’re spending money on Black Friday to buy up products that are made in China. This victimizes U.S. workers as well as Chinese workers. Our manufacturing jobs have gone to China (whereas technological jobs have gone to India) and the jobs that supported the factories–the designers, the suppliers, the accountants, the restaurants and businesses who were supported by the workers also suffer.
And the Chinese ignore the kind of work restrictions Americans have in place to protect employees as well as the environmental restrictions that protect the environment from pollution. These two things increase the cost to American manufacturers, but in the long run benefit Americans. Navarro shows us the dead cities, black and lifeless and obviously a threat to the people who live there. These are the “cancer villages.”
Navarro shows us that only a few people in China actually benefit as the workers, without the safeguards Americans and other nations have in place, are expendable and might even be prison inmates, some of which as political dissidents. Navarro gives us Harry Wu, who was a prisoner in a forced labor camp for 19 years and worked under the good work, good food forced labor. That meant long hours with few breaks just to keep from starving. Doesn’t this sound something like the “Hunger Games”?
This is Navarro’s directorial and writing debut, but don’t underestimate him. He’s a Harvard-trained Ph.D. economist and professor at the Paul Merage School of Business at the University of California, Irvine.
His books have been translated into ten languages and he’s published articles in the New York Times, The Wall Street Journal and The Washington Post. He’s considered an expert on the U.S.-China relationship and been consulted as such by MSNBC and CNN. He’s written “The Coming China Wars” and “Death by China.” The latter the book this movie is based on.
Navarro has assembled an impressive cast of talking heads–representatives such as Dana Rohrabacher (R-Ca for Orange County), to comedians like Jimmy Fallon and Stephen Colbert to other professors of economics like Peter Morici at the University of Maryland to Patrick Mulloy, the Commissioner for U.S.-China Economic & Security Review Commission.
The United States opened its markets to Chinese exports in 2001, but fair trade isn’t part of China’s way of business. According to Navarro, the Chinese are cheating by currency manipulation, polluting for profits, child and slave labor, and illegal export subsidies, and product counterfeiting and product and intellectual piracy.
This is an important documentary, particularly at a time when China is buying up America. What’s interesting is how much more positive coverage of China has been compared to Japan and the Japan-bashing we saw in the United States in the 1990s. Japan is a democracy with socialized medicine. China is still a communist country that is well-known for stealing patents and product piracy. America is in debt to China and they probably don’t have our best interests in mind. China hasn’t become more democratic as we were told they would with fair trade with the U.S. Navarro makes a case that China has become a more efficient totalitarian government with better means of oppressing its people.
In the interest of full disclosure, the movie covers Shi Tao, one of the dissidents who was given up by Yahoo while I was working at Yahoo Search Marketing. I was still working there when our then-CEO, co-founder Jerry Yang had to admit before Congressional leaders that Yahoo lied. Yahoo was called “moral pygmies” and they didn’t even punish any of the people involved in the cover-up. Yang sent a company-wide email that dance around the ethical problems. I’m no fan of Yahoo, but the movie points out that Yahoo and Google were used by China.
“Death by China” opens today (Friday, August 17) at the Laemmle Pasadena Playhouse 7. Peter Navarro will be at the Playhouse 7 for Q&As on both Friday and Saturday. On Saturday following the 7:30 p.m. show, there will be a Q&A with special guests from the Chinese, Vietnamese, and Tibetan dissident communities.