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Death by China

Reviving Cold War rhetoric of a militant communist power hell-bent on taking over the world, Peter Navarro’s Death by China, based on his and Greg Autry’s book of the same name, mixes valid points about the decline of U.S. manufacturing, the ruthlessness of American multinational corporations, and Draconian Chinese labor practices with a hefty dose of crude fearmongering. While detailing the ways in which the offshoring of American jobs to a country with considerably less labor and trade regulations hurts the U.S. economy, Navarro continually employs military metaphors, labeling each of China’s abuses a “weapon of job destruction,” while pairing Martin Sheen’s somber narration with explicitly warlike graphics to drive home the connection. Similarly, the film plays up fears of China’s military buildup, with American talking heads and regular folks alike exclaiming that the rising superpower will soon “own us.” Although few would deny that China’s economic and human rights practices are more than a little dubious—and while the filmmakers do place plenty of blame right here at home by decrying free trade agreements and irresponsible corporations—the bulk of the film contains as much hysterical rhetoric as sober analysis. Death by China espouses an us-versus-them worldview over a more measured understanding of the complexities of international finance. Andrew Schenker


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