Why are questions about China asked only in the Democratic presidential debates? We want to know what Republican candidates plan to do about China sending us poisoned foods and toys.
All presidential candidates should be asked what they plan to do about the fact that free trade with China means acquiescing in gross discrimination against U.S. products and jobs. The Chinese avoid a level trading field by artificially undervaluing their currency up to 40 percent, subsidizing their products, and imposing import duties against U.S. products that are 10 times higher than tariffs on Chinese products sold in the United States.
U.S. free-trade negotiators routinely accept trade agreements that give other countries the right to charge higher tariffs than the United States charge for similar products. For example, the Chinese Chery car will face a 2.5 percent tariff when sold in the U.S., but U.S. automobiles entering China will be taxed at 25 percent.
Foreign countries get by with this discrimination by calling it a value-added tax, or VAT, instead of a tariff, but it amounts to a high barrier against free trade. The result is that millions of U.S. jobs have moved overseas.
All presidential candidates ought to be asked what they plan to do about China's organized theft of U.S. intellectual property and counterfeiting of American products. China is the world's top producer of illegal copies of music, movies, software, designer clothes and medicines.
All candidates should be asked what they plan to do about China putting its billion dollars of profits from U.S. trade into military weaponry to threaten, not only Taiwan, but the United States, especially U.S. communication satellites.
The toy advertised by Wal-Mart as the top toy of the season had to be recalled after it was discovered that children in Texas, Delaware, New Hampshire, Illinois and Utah fell sick and were hospitalized because of swallowing the toy's bead-like parts. After 4.2 million were recalled, China finally admitted that the beads in Aqua Dots contained a substance that can turn into the "date-rape" drug after children swallow them.
That drug, gamma-hydroxy butyrate, causes breathing problems, loss of consciousness, seizures, drowsiness, coma and death. Aqua Dots were supposed to have been coated with a nontoxic chemical, but that chemical costs three or four times the price of the poisonous compound, so the Chinese manufacturer couldn't resist using the cheaper product.
According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission's Web site, 26 million toys and other products made in China have been recalled by U.S. companies since August. Even the Boy Scouts of America had to recall 1 million Chinese-made plastic badges that contained unsafe amounts of lead.
Chinese products for children found to contain unacceptable levels of lead include vinyl baby bibs, Thomas the Tank Engine sets, Baby Einstein Discover & Play Color Blocks, Pirates of the Caribbean medallion squeeze lights, Totally Me! Funky Room Decor Sets, Hannah Montana handbags, and Barbie doll accessories.
Australia recalled hundreds of blankets imported from China in October because they contained formaldehyde up to 10 times the level permissible under international standards. The World Heath Organization has classified formaldehyde as a known human carcinogen.
Chinese seafood is potentially more dangerous. About 80 percent of seafood consumed by Americans is imported, and the Food and Drug Administration inspects and tests only 1 percent.
Lab tests show that China uses antibiotics to treat fish raised in filthy waters where bacteria, viruses and parasites breed. Lab testers say that when seafood is rejected for an illegal chemical, the Chinese simply switch to another harmful chemical.
Often found in imported fish is a fungicide called malachite green, which is illegal to use in food in the United States because studies show it can cause cancer and birth defects.
Alabama has its own tests and rejects 50 percent to 60 percent of all fish imports. Alabama Commissioner of Agriculture Ron Sparks personally visited Asia to witness seafood farmed in sewage.
Chinese products are so cheap because workers in Guangdong, where most Chinese toys are made, are primarily 17- to 25-year-old females who average 16-hour workdays, six to seven days a week, and earn about $50 per month. They live in unhealthy, overcrowded dormitories, where a bed is their only possession.
With the 2008 Olympic games coming soon, China is stepping up its censorship under the official slogan "constructing a harmonious society." Visitors who click on China's largest Internet site, called Sina.com, are greeted by two cute cartoon police figures, one male and one female, who pop up onscreen every 30 minutes.
These images link to the Communist Party Internet police in order to report any information the government might deem illegal. It's important for Americans to realize that China is still a very communist and anti-American country.
Phyllis Schlafly is a national leader of the pro-family movement, a nationally syndicated columnist and author of Feminist Fantasies.
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