China’s lockdowns come at a time when other countries have abandoned them. Does it show the incompetence of the Chinese government in dealing effectively with the pandemic? How do lockdowns affect the global supply chain? How do lockdowns affect the inflation/stagflation problem around the world? Is there something the U.S. government can do?

Diana Furchtgott-Roth, an economist who served as Deputy Assistant Secretary for Research and Technology at the U.S. Department of Transportation, has answers to these questions.

On the timing of China’s lockdowns and failure to deal with the pandemic

These lockdowns show that the Chinese government did not adequately vaccinate the population. China is not using the mRNA Western vaccines, but was using its own vaccines, Sinovac and Sinopharm, which have not been as effective as Pfizer or Moderna.

China wants to show that it can be independent of the West by producing its own vaccines, rather than relying on the West. China wants to demonstrate that its science is equal to the West. It wants to portray itself as a Western country, as advanced as Western nations.

However, the Chinese vaccines have not been effective. Chinese scientist Zhong Nanshan said at a conference last December that China should be learning from the West about mRNA vaccines, reported the South China Morning Post.

People in countries with extensive mRNA vaccination programs have developed natural immunity and so these countries can open up. The Chinese people do not have this natural immunity and so China has to rely on lockdowns.

How do lockdowns affect the global supply chain?

Lockdowns in China are disrupting supply chains. Major cities such as Shenzhen, Shanghai, and Hong Kong are locked down. These are points of exit for goods, and 1- or 2-week delays cause massive disruption for exports.

In addition, there is a one-week quarantine for goods to enter China. That means that big manufacturers that use supplies from elsewhere—such as chips from South Korea—are finding that their operations are disrupted.

How do lockdowns affect the inflation/stagflation problem around the world?

Delays in getting supplies drive up prices and cause hoarding, because consumers and producers order extra to make sure they have adequate supplies of inventory for inputs and sales. This causes inflation to rise around the globe.

What can the U.S. government do?

There is nothing that the U.S. can do in the short term about Chinese lockdowns. The U.S. cannot relocate production to domestic sites instantaneously. However, this should be a wake-up call to show Americans that dependence on less-expensive foreign suppliers comes at a cost. These costs have not been discussed so far. The argument has always been that low-priced goods are good for consumers. This is generally true—except when the source of these goods is a country that is not friendly to America, and might have problems with supply chains. TheU.S. can measure those costs. Americans should consider relocating some production to the U.S.—even though it means paying more for it.