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U.S. Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) is asking colleagues not to accept meetings with officials from Chinese companies in the increasingly tense post-coronavirus pandemic political and diplomatic climate after Beijing appears to have worked to hide the effects of the COVID-19 and exacerbate its global spread.
In addition, Blackburn has urged her Senate colleagues to “exercise caution” when meeting with Chinese government officials.
“Blacklisting China in Congress mirrors punitive steps the executive branch has already taken,” she wrote in a letter to members Thursday.
“Denying China an opportunity to spread Communist propaganda in congressional offices sends a warning shot to Beijing that Congress will not tolerate Beijing’s misinformation war over the origins of the COVID-19 outbreak,” she wrote in a letter to members Thursday. “I therefore urge you and your staff to refuse meetings with any representatives of Chinese companies, regardless of whether they are state owned or claim to be privately run entities, and to exercise caution when accepting meetings with Chinese officials.
The Tennessee Republican added that a number of Chinese technology companies including Huawei have been barred from selling telecommunications gear to U.S. government agencies by the Trump administration over concerns from the Pentagon and U.S. intelligence agencies that the Communist government would use it for espionage purposes.
Chinese tech company ZTE is similarly banned from selling equipment to U.S. government agencies and for the same reason.
As such, they “likewise cannot be trusted to lobby members of Congress with the best intentions in mind,” she said.
“Chinese Communist Party officials and Chinese entities should be shunned in the halls of Congress,” Blackburn wrote. “Please join me in warning Beijing that any Chinese agent of repression, even those dressed in business suits to disguise the green Maoist uniforms that they support, are not welcome to step foot in our offices or to lobby our staff.”
Her letter comes amid rising tensions with China following the coronavirus pandemic. Earlier this week in an interview with Fox Business Network’s Maria Bartiromo, President Donald Trump expressed disappointment in China and even hinted that the U.S. might end all relations with the Asian giant.
“They should have never let this happen,” Trump said. “So I make a great trade deal and now I say this doesn’t feel the same to me. The ink was barely dry and the plague came over. And it doesn’t feel the same to me.”
The president’s disappointment also extends to Chinese President Xi Jinping, though in the past Trump has said he had a good relationship with him.
“But I just – right now I don’t want to speak to him,” Trump told Bartiromo.
Asked what he intended to do moving forward with China, Trump said one option was to simply break off relations altogether.
“There are many things we could do. We could do things. We could cut off the whole relationship,” he said. “Now, if you did, what would happen? You’d save $500 billion.”
In a separate Fox Business Network interview, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin told Fox Business Network said that China needs to provide the White House with a lot more information about the virus, especially after revelations that German intelligence has audio evidence proving Xi asked the World Health Organization to help cover up the virus’ outbreak.
“The president is concerned. He’s reviewing all his options. Obviously, we’re very concerned about the impact of this virus on the economy, on American jobs, the health of the American public, and the president is going to do everything to protect the economy and protect American workers,” said Mnuchin.
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