Sometimes the message is more important than the presentation. Such is the case with Peter Navarro’s ominous new documentary, “Death By China,” which examines the biggest problem facing America that’s being ignored by Washington – the increasingly destructive trade relationship with China. Navarro concretely lays out the facts – since the U.S. opened its markets to China in 2001, 57,000 American factories have closed, over 25 million Americans can’t find a decent job, and our country owes over 3 Trillion dollars to China, the world’s largest totalitarian nation.
Narrated b Martin Sheen and full of economists, trade experts and man-on-the-street interviews, “Death By China” succinctly explains how this destructive trade policy occurred and its continued repercussions. The film presents bi-partisan experts as well as interviews with a former Chinese worker who paints an alarming picture of Chinese labor camps and underage workers.
The film calls out the complicity of multi-national corporations, eager to move their factories to China for the cheap labor. In China there are no labor laws or environmental protection laws. One horrific statement is that 25 percent of the polluted particulate matter that lands on the California coast comes from Asia.
Aside from the moral issues associated with a country that doesn’t care about its workers or its environment, one might ask how American companies can compete with such unfair trade practices? The answer is they can’t.
Time and time again Chinese-manufactured products are in the news for poor workmanship or being dangerous due to the shoddy standards of manufacturing. But here’s the rub, because so many Americans are economically challenged, they look for the lowest price without realizing most of their products are made in China, at companies that helped close down their community’s factory.
To this point, Navarro interviews shoppers at a mall on Black Friday – the sales day after Thanksgiving. Every buyer’s product, whether a bike or a big-screen TV, was made in China.
A shocking statistic is that 91 percent of manufactured products sitting on Walmart’s shelves come from China. Equally stunning is teacher Judith Samuelson’s story about trying to replace her broken microwave, and how every new microwave she looked at, either online or in stores, was made in China. She no longer owns a microwave.
Although “Death By China” makes powerful arguments, the film isn’t perfect. For one, the film’s abundance of talking heads often illustrate similar points, which gets tiresome by the film’s end. This tactic almost veers into the territory of diluting the strong message due to its repetitiveness. Also, “Death By China” isn’t the most visually compelling or creative documentary around. At times too, the film teeters on conjuring moments of hysteria (although maybe that’s the only way to grab one’s attention these days).
But what’s positive about Peter Navarro’s “Death By China” is its clarity in facts and its pitch to its audiences (and our politicians) to be less complacent. We need to demand trade reform and create a more balanced trade relation with China. We need to take a stand now to bring back manufacturing to America. How can our country survive if we don’t build a single thing?
“Death By China” is a timely message as we approach our presidential and congressional elections.
“Death By China” is 79 minutes and Not Rated. It opens in Los Angeles on August 17 and New York on August 24.
Filmmaker Peter Navarro will be present on August 17-18 at 7:30 at the Laemmle Playhouse 7 in Pasadena to discuss his movie.
For other film articles by Lori Huck, check out:
‘Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry’ Review
‘The Awakening’ Film Review: A Good, Scary Ghost Story