Death by China

Death by China

Based on the Book by:
Executive Producer:
Consulting Producer:
Original Score:
  • Christophe Eagleton
Production Company:
  • DBC Productions

* Most external filmography links go to The Internet Movie Database.

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Death by China (2012)

Opened: 08/17/2012 Limited

Playhouse 708/17/2012 - 08/23/20127 days
Quad Cinema/NYC08/24/2012 - 08/30/20127 days
Georgetown 1409/14/2012 - 09/20/20127 days

Trailer: Click for trailer

Websites: Home, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube

Genre: Documentary

Rated: Unrated


In 2001, China joined the World Trade Organization with the strong support of a Democratic president and a Republican-controlled Congress. Before the ink was dry on this free trade agreement, China began flooding American markets with its illegally subsidized exports while the big multinational companies that had lobbied heavily for the agreement rapidly accelerated the offshoring of American factories and jobs to China. Today, as a result of the biggest political shell game in American economic history, China has stolen thousands of our factories and millions of our jobs, multinational corporation profits are soaring, and we now owe over $3 trillion to the world's largest totalitarian nation.

In Death By China, director Peter Navarro relies on a stellar cast of China experts -- and some of the wisest "people on the street" ever interviewed -- to explain how the United States has been backed into such a dangerous Chinese corner. He sets the stage early in the film for an examination of the current U.S.-China trade relationship with an historical look at China's controversial entry into the World Trade Organization in 2001.

This pivotal event gave China full access to American markets; and rather than play by fair trade rules, the Chinese government quickly launched a devastating attack against America's industrial base using "weapons of job destruction" like currency manipulation, illegal export subsidies, counterfeiting and piracy, and widespread abuses of China's environment and workers.

Of course, the Chinese government is not solely to blame for the demise of the American economy. As Navarro carefully details, American multinational corporations like Apple, Boeing, Caterpillar, and GE have played a highly complicit role in the offshoring of America's industrial base. Economist Alan Tonelson explains the politics of offshoring in this way: "When China provides illegal subsidies for manufacturing, for the act of exporting itself, U.S.-owned companies benefit. They like the status quo, they want to protect it, and they have paid a lot of [lobbying] money for it."

Throughout the film, Navarro is very careful to distinguish clearly between what narrator Martin Sheen describes as "the good and hardworking people of China" versus "their repressive Communist government now victimizing both American and Chinese citizens alike." And cast member Harry Wu -- a prisoner in China's notorious forced labor camps for 19 years -- is particularly compelling in documenting the victimization of Chinese dissidents through beatings, torture, and ungodly acts of organ harvesting from executed prisoners of conscience.

At its conclusion, Death By China issues a fervent call to action from cast members of all walks of life and across the partisan spectrum. Standing symbolically in front of the White House, Joanna Davison succinctly summarizes America's dilemma: "No, you can't have it both ways. We either want the jobs, the manufacturing, everything here in the United States; and we're gonna buy it; but you go to the store and you look for the cheapest thing, which usually comes from China." Forbes columnist Gordan Chang insists "We need to change course" while steel executive Tom Danjzcek demands "definitive U.S. action."

For U.S.-China Commissioner Pat Mulloy, the best solution is for our political leaders to adopt a policy of "balanced trade" that would bring our jobs back home. However, teacher Judith Samuelson believes we all must take this matter into our own hands right now and every time we shop: "I think that at every level, people could boycott to some extent, and there would be a shot heard around the world." Either way, Congressman Dana Rohrabacher has the last word in the film by warning: "We can no longer afford to treat a communist dictatorship in China as we would treat any other democratic institution because they have treated us like fools for doing that; and that's because we have been fools."

Director's Statement

I made this film because, as an economist and father, I have never been more concerned about America's future. Unless each of us as consumers and voters first clearly understand -- and then squarely confront-- our destructive trade relationship with a rapidly rising China, we as a nation are doomed. We are doomed not just to a future of slow growth and stagnant wages but also to a world in which a free and democratic America simply becomes, as cast member Lynn MacDonald bluntly puts it, "a subsidiary of China because they are going to own us."

What troubles me most about this increasingly grave situation is this: The vast majority of our political leaders -- and journalists! -- simply are not making the critical connection between America's huge trade deficit with China and the reality that over 25 million of our citizens can't find a decent job. The underlying facts of this situation are, however, both abundantly clear and unequivocable:

From 1947 to 2000, the American economy grew at an average rate of 3.5% annually. Despite the occasional recession, life was very good in this country as our standard of living steadily rose. Since 2001, however -- the same year the United States fully opened its markets to a flood of illegally subsidized Chinese exports -- the U.S. economy has grown at only 1.6% annually.

While the loss of almost two percentage points of GDP growth a year may not seem like much, every additional GDP growth point leads to the creation of one million new jobs. So losing almost two points of GDP a year over the last decade has translated into the loss of more than 20 million jobs -- almost exactly what we need right now to put America fully back to work.

Because our politicians have failed to connect the dots between our Chinese import dependence and a stagnant American economy, they have relied on ill-advised and unduly lavish fiscal stimulus packages to try and jumpstart an economy that has lost much of its manufacturing base horsepower. This approach has not only failed to put America back to work; it has dug our country ever deeper into debt -- with much of that debt ironically owed to China.

Of course, it's not just our politicians who are failing us. At the grassroots level, many American consumers likewise are not making the appropriate connection between buying cheap, illegally subsidized Chinese products and the loss of factories and jobs in their own communities. Yet every time a consumer walks into a big box retailer and puts another Made in China product in the basket, that consumer is contributing further to our country's demise. As one contributor to the film puts it: "Yea, things are cheap at Walmart; but we have to consider the consequences."

Ultimately, this film is about both consequences and taking action. It is a film dedicated to the idea that if we all come to better understand the consequences of the current U.S.-China relationship, we as voters will demand much more from our politicians; and we as consumers will make far better choices when it comes to buying -- or not buying -- products "Made in China."

-- Peter Navarro, Director