Op-Ed: American Manufacturing No Longer Exists: Will USA’s Overreliance on China’s Products Send it to the Stone Age if Imports Stop?

American manufacturing no longer exists. There’s no truly wholly “American” manufacturing anymore (“American manufacturing” meaning companies that make everything in-house). The U.S. almost entirely depends on overseas imports for its products; even so-called American manufacturers purchase many of their parts from other countries. When did you last see a “Made in America” sticker on an item you purchased? Now, think of when you last saw a “Made in China” sticker on something — probably all the time, right? Destroying its manufacturing ecosystem in exchange for temporary cheap labor is the biggest mistake the U.S. has ever made and likely spelled the beginning of the nation’s end. But how exactly did that happen, and what does it mean for the U.S.’s future? 

This might come as a surprise now, but America was the world’s leading manufacturing powerhouse in the past. The U.S. produced half of the world’s goods in 1950, with only 6 percent of the world’s population. The share of output produced in industry was about 40 percent of the U.S.’s GDP. However, in 2023, the U.S. only accounted for about 12 percent of the global manufacturing output, which is a huge decline. On the other hand, China went from producing 1.8% of the world’s goods in 1950 to 28.4% in 2023. The U.S. isn’t even in the top ten of the world’s major manufacturing countries anymore, while China is number one.

Now, you might be asking yourself: why would the U.S. send its factories overseas? The answer is simple. The American government made it unprofitable for American companies to manufacture their products locally. Due to uncompetitive high tax rates, manufacturers started fleeing. This self-destruction is what made the U.S. become so uncompetitive and vulnerable. 

The U.S.’s dependence on foreign, overseas countries for most of its goods is dangerous. Just the other week, China imposed sanctions on five U.S. defense firms in retaliation for American arms sales to Taiwan and sanctions on Chinese entities. While you may think this doesn’t seem like a big deal (five companies were sanctioned, so what?), keep in mind that that’s only the beginning. Imagine how easy it could be for China — or any country, for that matter — to decide to stop its imports into the U.S. altogether. This could technically happen at any time. The U.S. would end up back in the Stone Age. Critical things like transistors, microprocessors, microchips, etc., which power the world, aren’t made in the U.S. This turns the U.S. into a dependent, weak country. In the end, cheap labor for corporations will end up costing the U.S. more than it could possibly imagine.

Many people like to say things like “globalization is inevitable” or “we can’t make everything ourselves.” But is it really? Is it really that hard to just not raise taxes on businesses? If you just look at America’s manufacturing past, it’s clear that the country, in fact, can make many things itself, just like China or Japan. Still, the U.S. chooses to outsource because exorbitant fees, unions and regulations render business unprofitable. A country that depends on other countries for its survival cannot last. Once you become dependent, you become vanquishable.