Tenn. Senator Marsha Blackburn threatened with sanction by China

May 21, 2020

Tennessee Senator Marsha Blackburn
Credit Senate.gov

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (Mike Osborne)  --  Tennessee Senator Marsha Blackburn continues to escalate her running feud with the leadership of Communist China.

Blackburn yesterday joined U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in congratulating Taiwan President Tsai Ing-Wen on the beginning of her new term in office. The People’s Republic of China (PRC) 

considers Taiwan a renegade province. PRC officials see it as a provocation that high ranking U.S. officials simply recognize the island nation president’s election victory.

Last week, the Chinese Government threatened to place Senator Blackburn and three other conservative U.S. Republican lawmakers on its sanctions list. That move came in reaction to their sponsorship of bills in Congress that would make it easier for Americans to sue China for financial losses resulting from the coronavirus outbreak.

Blackburn’s clash with Communist China has dominated her social media messaging to Tennessee constituents since the health crisis began. WMOT asked Middle Tennessee State University data journalist Dr. Ken Blake to analyze Blackburn’s Twitter posts between January 1 and May 15 of this year.

Dr. Blake determined that of the Senator’s 576 tweets during that period, about one in four included the words “China,” “Chinese,” or “Wuhan.” Fully half of Blackburn’s Twitter posts to constituents during the month of April mentioned China.

The posts have been scathing, especially on the topic of what Senator Blackburn refers to as the “Chinese Coronavirus.” On May 7 she wrote that the Chinese government’s leadership “lied to everyone about how dangerous this virus is, & they did it on purpose.”

WMOT asked the Senator about her heightened focus on China. In reply she wrote in part that her social media messaging is, “a response to Chinese attempts to cover-up a global pandemic, which originated in the city of Wuhan. The pandemic has had a direct impact on the health, life, and livelihood of Tennesseans.”

It’s unclear what, if any, consequences might result from Senator Blackburn being sanctioned by China. However, in a May 14 article in the daily newspaper of the Chinese Communist Party the possibility of trade “adjustments” targeting individual U.S. States was floated. Data from the U.S. Census Bureau indicates Tennessee did some $2.3 billion in trade with China last year.

Here is a list of actions taken by Senator Blackburn in recent weeks with implications for relations between the U.S. and China. The list was provided by Senator Blackburn’s office.

  • The Stop COVID Act: Legislation with Senator McSally (R-Ariz.) to empower Americans to sue China in U.S. court and seek compensation for the devastating harm the deadly virus has caused to the economy and human life.
  • The Securing America’s Medicine Cabinet Act: Bipartisan legislation with Senator Menendez (D-N.J.) to address the fact that over 70% of the ingredients used to make pharmaceuticals are manufactured overseas. Currently, only 28% of advanced pharmaceutical ingredient-producing facilities are in the United States and the number of Chinese facilities has more than doubled since 2010.
  • The Advanced Manufacturing Jobs in America Act: Bipartisan legislation with Senator Rosen (D-Nev.) to help fill the gap between the growth of advanced manufacturing jobs and individuals qualified with the unique skill set to fill those positions.
  • The Protecting Human Rights During Pandemic Act: Bipartisan legislation with Senator Markey (D-Mass.) requiring the State Department and United States Agency for International Development to take steps, through diplomacy and development assistance, to prevent human rights abuses from being carried out in the name of the coronavirus response.
  • A resolution to hold China accountable for the spread of COVID-19.
  • A letter to Secretary Pompeo and US Rep to the UN Kelly Craft to address the crackdown of free speech in China and in countries across four continents, including Turkey, Bangladesh, Niger and Cambodia, in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • A letter calling on her fellow lawmakers to refuse meetings with representatives from Chinese companies, including video sharing app TikTok and telecom company Huawei.

FULL DISCLOSURE: One of the China related issues Senator Blackburn has addressed in recent months is the presence of Confucius Institutes located on many U.S. university campuses. The institutes are sponsored by the PRC. The Senator has described the institutes as “an affront to academic freedom.” One such institute is located on the campus of Middle Tennessee State University. MTSU owns and operates radio station WMOT. WMOT News is editorially independent.