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Made in China

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC

Mr. FORTENBERRY. Madam Speaker, as I was shopping for some family items recently, I noted how difficult it is to find items that are made in America. While American manufacturing is, encouragingly enough, on the rebound, products ranging from hairbrushes to iPods still carry that ``Made in China'' label. All the while, many questions about China and its economic policies, foreign policies, and human rights records are left largely unexamined.

For the good of our economy, it is essential that we thoroughly understand China's record and their intentions as a country. Our nations have a complicated and lopsided economic relationship. Americans buy great quantities of Chinese-made products. China finances a great portion of America's debt. Currently, nearly one-third of our debt is foreign owned with China easily being the largest debt holder at nearly $1.2 trillion. Other estimates peg the figure at closer to $2 trillion. The effect of such indebtedness is the shift of our wealth assets into the hands of a foreign nation, losing the market for American-made products to a country with lax labor and environmental standards, which manipulates its currency and creates unbalanced and unfair trading conditions.
China's involvement on the world stage is also of significant concern. While it aggressively pursues its own mercantilistic agenda, China lends little constructive hand to creating conditions for international stability. China is seen as an enabler of North Korea, who is actively pursuing nuclear weapons capabilities; and they continue on their march toward more aggressive missile testing, as well, despite the protest of the international community.

Over recent months, as the U.S. and the European Union have accelerated important efforts to curb Iran's nuclear ambitions, China has been conspicuously absent from the leadership table in this discussion. China continues to be a top buyer of Iranian oil--one of the key leverage points of economic sanctions against Iran. At a discussion I attended, a Chinese official in so many words said the U.S. is to blame for Iran's pursuit of nuclear weapons capability. And he went on to say, while China does not desire this outcome, we're going to do business as usual.

Africa is becoming a lost continent, diplomatically and economically, in favor of international players who do not have the same regard for human rights as we do. China's influence in resource-rich Africa is growing rapidly--with disturbing consequences. Direct Chinese investment in Africa has grown exponentially over the last 2 years. One million Chinese nationals now do business in Africa, and Chinese energy and mineral resource companies are quickly acquiring oil fields and mines.

In the process, China has forged strategic alliances with war criminals. According to China's Foreign Ministry spokesman, China shares a ``deep and profound friendship'' with Sudanese war criminal Omar al-Bashir. I should note there was a bright spot this week. When approached by South Sudanese President Salva Kiir for assistance as Sudan and South Sudan march toward war, China's President Hu Jintao echoed the United States in calling for peace and negotiation between the two countries, rather than continuing to back Omar al-Bashir. The international community will look upon China's new role as a diplomatic figure in this conflict with great interest.

Beyond this, an honest discussion is necessary about Chinese industrial virtues. A Chinese official has said that in dealing with ``differences in corporate culture and the degree of openness to the outside world, Chinese companies always take the domestic business practices with them.'' Chinese companies always take ``domestic business practices'' with them. Those practices, according to witnesses who have given congressional testimony, include fertility monitors on factory floors, invasively examining female employees for pregnancy and reporting pregnant women to the Chinese family planning police. China has practiced the violence of forced abortions. China also has tragically high suicide rates for workers, who use suicide as their only means of collective bargaining against dire and oppressive labor conditions.

As China continues to advance as a world economic power, it has a choice. It can join the responsible community of nations in respecting the dignity and rights of all persons while conducting affairs with other nations in an ethical fashion, or it can stand by current practices that exploit relationships in order to fuel its own brand of corporate collectivism, undermining international stability in the process.

Madam Speaker, it is my belief that it is important to seek reasonable and good relationships with China, a country with a rich cultural history, a country which is rapidly ascending onto the world stage. We must do so ideally and practically for the sake of our own national security. But we must do so with open eyes, fully understanding the implications when all of us buy products with that ``made in China'' label.

Madam Speaker, I yield back the balance of my time.

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