China’s Communist Party is again seizing factory lines churning out the world’s supply of medical safety gear — sparking fears the country is preparing for a second wave of the coronavirus, American traders in China told The Post.
New Yorker Moshe Malamud, who has done business in China for over two decades, was moving tens of millions of pieces of protective gear to the US at the height of the crisis but said suppliers in recent weeks had been overwhelmed with orders from the Chinese government.
“I was placing a larger order with one of the bigger distributors and he tells me, ‘I can complete this order but after this we’ve been contracted by the Chinese government to produce 250 million gowns,’” said Malamud, who lived in China for a decade before founding aviation company M2Jets.
He said he heard a similar story about another manufacturer making thermometers.
“We hear how China is up and running and the virus is past them, so I asked, ‘What are they ordering 250 million gowns for?’ and of course no one is talking.”
“I’ve been hearing this a lot from other manufacturing institutions that say, ‘We can give you a little bit, but basically we’re concentrated between now and the end of the summer manufacturing stuff for the Chinese government in anticipation of a second wave,’” he continued.
Last month, leading US manufacturers of medical safety gear told the White House that China had prohibited them from exporting goods as the crisis mounted, a Post report revealed.
A leaked Department of Homeland Security intelligence report also concluded China downplayed the severity of the virus to stockpile medical supplies needed to fight the outbreak.
One senior White House official told The Post they were concerned PPE would be used as a “blackmail tool,” with China wielding its manufacturing power to alter foreign policy decisions.
The warning comes after China’s top medical adviser this week told CNN he feared a second wave of COVID-19, with fresh clusters emerging in different parts of the country.
Michael Kule, founder of Hong Kong-based AFA Sourcing, said it had been “very challenging” to get goods out of China, citing constantly changing export rules, but added he didn’t believe Chinese authorities were doing it out of malice.
“I don’t feel like the Chinese government is making an attempt to not get goods to the American public,” Kule said. “I do think that they are looking out for themselves so that if they need something, they’re going to get first priority.”
“If there’s a very good factory making very good product, then they’ll take over. I’ve been involved with a factory that the Chinese government placed 200 million pieces with and now I can’t place any more orders.”
“It was a really good set-up and they said, ‘Sorry, no more orders. Go find another factory.’”
Kule and Malamud said they were still getting materials out of China, citing their decades of experience in the region, but were both shocked by the rush from inexperienced opportunists who had been price gouging desperate hospitals by marking up medical materials by up to 300 percent.
Both men sounded the alarm over a US overreliance on China for essential goods and said the Trump administration would be smart to diversify.
“Why wouldn’t the White House bring in people who do this for a living, who are experts in sourcing and manufacturing, and come up with a strategy of how we’re going to manufacture this stuff, not just in China but in Bangladesh, in Africa, in the Caribbean, in Honduras and Vietnam?” Malamud asked.
Lawmakers on Capitol Hill share this sentiment and have joined the international community in calling for an investigation into China’s handling of the crisis, which broke out in Wuhan in December last year.
“In a time of a global pandemic, lies cost lives,” Rep. Max Rose (D-NY) told The Post.
“Reports of the Communist Chinese government downplaying the severity of the coronavirus while simultaneously stockpiling PPE strikes to the core of why they cannot be trusted,” he continued.
“That’s why I’ve made a bipartisan request for our Intelligence Community to get facts because the world deserves to know the truth,” he said.
Rose, chair of the Homeland Security Subcommittee on Intelligence and Counterterrorism, is calling on the Department of Homeland Security to increase its focus on China’s activity and intelligence regarding the Communist Party’s response to COVID-19.
A State Department spokesman said they were working with Chinese authorities over delays in goods.
“We continue to work closely with US companies exporting PPE from China and to raise related issues such as export delays with the People’s Republic of China authorities,” he said.