U.S. News & World Report Article on China Threatening Smith'China Threatens to Sanction U.S. Politicians for Coronavirus Criticism'
By Paul D. Shrinkman, Senior Writer, National Security
Legislation introduced by a series of China hawks on Capitol Hill, along with lawsuits filed by the attorneys general of Missouri and Mississippi, amount to an "abuse of litigation by the U.S. against China over the COVID-19 epidemic" and has prompted Chinese officials to mull "punitive measures" including sanctions, according to a report published in China's Global Post Thursday morning.
"China won't just strike back symbolically, but will impose countermeasures that will make them feel painful," according to the outlet, which is not a direct mouthpiece of the Chinese Communist Party but is considered to be aligned with its views.
The post does not expressly say who China would sanction and how, but does reference "four GOP lawmakers" and "two U.S. entities." It cites pieces of legislation introduced by Republicans Sen. Josh Hawley of Missouri, Sen. Tom Cotton of Arkansas, Rep. Dan Crenshaw of Texas and Rep. Chris Smith of New Jersey that would allow Americans to sue China. It also references lawsuits brought by the Republican attorneys general of Missouri, Eric Schmitt, and Mississippi, Lynn Fitch, seeking damages for deaths caused by the virus.
Schmitt's office says it is undeterred by China's threats.
"We filed this suit on behalf of the thousands of Missourians who have been sickened and lost their jobs, the hundreds of Missourians who have died, and those who have been separated from loved ones due to COVID-19," a spokesperson said in an email to U.S. News. "We stand by our lawsuit."
In a tweet, Crenshaw said news on Thursday shows the Chinese Communist party is "scared" and added, "We're not intimidated. We're not backing down." Hawley offered a similar dismissal of the threat, tweeting, "Does this mean my site visit to the Wuhan lab is off?"
"Beijing cannot hide, lie or threaten enough to silence those of us demanding transparency, human rights, and an end to the Communist Party's censorship, cyber-hacking, and crimes against humanity," Smith said in an emailed statement to U.S. News. "Sanctions will not silence me or anyone who wants real answers about the COVID virus's transmission."
Punitive action from China could hurt these states. Missouri, for example, engaged in $1.8 billion worth of trade in goods with China in 2016 – its third-largest export market – accounting for almost 20,000 jobs at that time, according to The U.S.-China Business Council.
"China's definition of sanctions is unclear, their process opaque, and their implementation inconsistent. But they can impose no sanction worse than the Chinese coronavirus," a spokesperson for Blackburn said in an email to U.S. News. "The CCP is distracting its people from its economic woes. [Chinese President Xi Jinping] now has to rely on nationalism and coalescence against its perceived enemies to regain political ground."
Many of these lawmakers are among the most vocal supporters of the Trump administration's stepped-up efforts in recent days to pin blame on China for the virus and the subsequent economic fallout. The State Department has been particularly vocal, accusing China earlier this week of successfully manipulating Twitter to promote a sophisticated propaganda campaign. The social media giant has denied some of these claims.
Though China has ramped up pressure in recent months on foreign officials and private companies that have levied international criticism against it, multiple analysts who spoke with U.S. News could not identify a prior instance in which Beijing threatened to target specific American politicians. But the coronavirus also presents an unprecedented situation for all countries, including China, believed to be the source of its original spread.
[ READ: Missouri Sues China for Pandemic ]
"While China has not typically threatened individual U.S. lawmakers or states with economic punishment, in the current environment I would not be surprised to see commerce between China and these districts suffer as a result," says Jessica Chen Weiss, a professor at Cornell University and China specialist, "even if Beijing leaves room for plausible deniability."
China has relied heavily on economic measures to fire back at governments and private institutions that have targeted issues the Chinese Communist Party deems central to its legitimacy, Weiss says, such as Hong Kong, Taiwan or Tibet, and now its handling of the coronavirus' spread.
This week it began imposing a boycott on Australian goods such as beef and barley after leaders there called for the World Health Organization to investigate the origins of the coronavirus – retaliation that has prompted widespread concern in Australia.
Similarly the NBA was forced to apologize last fall after Houston Rockets owner Daryl Morey tweeted his support for pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong, prompting the Chinese Basketball Association to announce it would cut ties with the Texas team.
Updated on May 14, 2020