Film blames China for U.S. unemployment
By Jason Cato
Published: Friday, October 5, 2012, 12:01 a.m.
Updated: Friday, October 5, 2012
A swing-state barnstorming tour for “Death by China,” a documentary filmmaker Peter Navarro sees as critical in this election season, will make its Pittsburgh premiere on Friday at SouthSide Works.
The film, based on a book of the same name co-written by Navarro, slams China for illegal trade practices, including intellectual property theft and currency manipulation, as well as abuses of human rights and the environment.
“My mission is to connect the dots between unemployment in the United States and trade with China,” Navarro said. “The only issue that matters is jobs, and the only ways we're going to get more jobs is to deal with China.”
Since China joined the World Trade Organization in 2001, about 50,000 American factories have closed, and more than 25 million people are looking for decent jobs, he said.
The decade that followed China's WTO membership had 2.8 million jobs lost or displaced across the United States, an analysis by the Economic Policy Institute in Washington found. Nearly 107,000 of those jobs were from Pennsylvania.
The trade deficit between the United States and China grew from $84 billion in 2001 to $278 billion in 2010, the EPI report found.
“Job loss because of unfair trade with China is an important issue that should be addressed,” said Stephen Herzenberg, executive director of the Keystone Research Center, a nonpartisan group in Harrisburg. “But job loss to China isn't the most important pressure on the middle class.”
Coupled with the loss of manufacturing jobs to countries such as China is the fact that the broad service sector isn't creating enough good-paying jobs for the middle class, he said.
U.S. manufacturing jobs have grown recently under President Obama, Herzenberg said.
A recent report by Bloomberg Government showed growth in factory jobs since 2010, making it the longest such stretch in nearly 20 years.
Still, the national unemployment rate has been over 8 percent going on four years. New figures from the Labor Department to be released Friday are expected to increase the national jobless rate from 8.1 percent to 8.2 percent.
Herzenberg said he has not seen “Death by China,” but he said the title comes across as “not only antagonistic, but also exaggerated.”
Some critics who have seen the film ripped it for being one-sided while noting its legitimate concerns.
Michael Moore and Al Gore received strong measures of criticism for expressing “strong points by telling the truth,” said Navarro, an economist and business professor at the University of California, Irvine.
“What's the other side of currency manipulation? What's the other side of human labor camps used to produce Homer Simpson slippers?” Navarro asked. “What's the other side of a country basically turning itself into the most polluted country in the world?”
SouthSide Works Cinema will show “Death by China” five times daily starting Friday through Oct. 12. Navarro will attend town-hall discussions after the 7:30 p.m. showings Friday and Saturday.
He urged Obama and Republican challenger Mitt Romney to make dealing with China a top priority in their pledges to restore jobs and the middle class.
“The film is totally nonpartisan,” Navarro said. “It's not about right and left. It's about right and wrong.”
Jason Cato is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7936 or email@example.com.
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