A few economic policy experts in China contend that their country may be going too far. According to Tianyancha, a Chinese data service, more than 67,000 companies have registered in China this year to make or trade masks. Many start-ups with poor quality control have already run into trouble. The Chinese government has imposed increasingly stringent customs inspections on exports.
“Many mask-manufacturing enterprises — especially the small and medium enterprises that came into the picture much later and do not possess strong foundations — would have to face closure when they have a surplus of masks and profits begin to plunge,” wrote Cai Enze, a retired deputy mayor and economic planner in central China, in an essay in April. “That marks the start of a crisis.”
Still, the broader industry in China appears to be better prepared for the future.
In Los Angeles, Mr. Tammabattula has found that even producing hand sanitizer is hard. He has been unable to find any company in the United States that still makes plastic bottles with pump handles. He imports them, on expensive chartered aircraft, from China.
Mr. Tammabattula has applied for a federal loan for small businesses trying to produce medical supplies, but the paperwork has proved extensive, daunting and slow, he said.
“If we were to compare to the Chinese government,” Mr. Tammabattula said, “there’s just no support for domestic manufacturing.”