Sunday, May 27, 2018
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Kirk Baird

Film blames economic mess on China

Our economy is a mess. Even in a bitterly partisan political season, that seems to be the one unifying consensus.

As Republicans and Democrats argue about how to fix the problem, Peter Navarro says they're ignoring the bigger threat: China.

Navarro, 63, who has a doctorate in economics from Harvard and has been an economics professor at University of California, Irvine, for more than two decades, has spent years studying China. And he's worried about what he considers to be mounting economic dangers to the United States by the communist nation's unfair and illegal trade practices.

It's a message he has been shouting from the rooftops for years in two books -- 2006's The Coming China Wars and 2011's Death by China -- as a guest on CNN, CNBC, MSNBC, and the CBS and NBC newscasts, and most recently in a documentary he wrote and directed, also titled Death by China, which opens today in Toledo. Navarro, who is touring with his film through Ohio, Michigan, and other parts of the Midwest, will conduct a post-screening town hall Q&A following the screenings at 7 p.m. today and Saturday at Rave Franklin Park 16.

"My life has been dedicated to policy issues, and about 10 years ago I noticed we were losing our economic base," he said in a recent phone interview. "I did a lot of studying about that and I noticed a lot of the problems starting back to 2002 being the disintegration of our industrial base with states like Ohio and Michigan and Pennsylvania.

"A lot of people on the West Coast believe the recession began in '07, but the recession came on in earnest in '04 and hit Ohio, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and the Midwest really hard" with the decline of the industrial base.

And for that he says the Chinese Government, multinational companies including Apple, Boeing, and Jeep, as well as Democrats and Republicans in Washington are to blame.

Navarro is especially proud that his film features conservatives and liberals arguing for the same point: trade reform with China. "You'll never see Congressman Tim Ryan, [a] Democrat from Ohio, in the same film as Dana Rohrabacher or Chris Smith, very conservative Republicans," he said. "The film is totally nonpartisan, left or right, but about right and wrong. It's a totally American film."

Critics contend, however, that Death by China is too one-sided in its opinion. "It is ... unabashedly one-sided and is short on solutions, other than the usual 'Call your Congressional representatives,' " opined Neil Genzlinger of the New York Times.

Navarro acknowledged hearing these complaints, but urged critics to challenge the facts of his film.

"To me, what's the other side of currency manipulation? What's the other side of illegal exports? What's the other side of being the largest counterfeiter in the world? What's the other side of using prison labor to sell Homer Simpson slippers that sell in Walmart?" he said. "I think some people view this film as alarming, but it's factually accurate. It's exactly what's going on and some people are shocked by that. But the truth is the truth. This is a wake-up call.

"I think we're very near the tipping point and that's why I'm taking the film before I go with a national distribution through the state of Ohio ... in Toledo, and taking this film to these manufacturing swing states for one simple reason: to elevate the discussion about the role of China in job loss and to get the two presidential candidates to acknowledge that the best jobs program is trade reform with China, cracking down on China's unfair trade advantage, and not more government spending."

Contact Kirk Baird at or 419-724-6734.

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