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Blue Dogs Push Bill To Crack Down On Chinese Efforts to ‘Exploit’ Pandemic

July 6, 2020 by Gaspard Le Dem

WASHINGTON – A group of moderate House Democrats wants the U.S. government to track down potential attempts by the Chinese government to use the coronavirus crisis to its advantage.

The Blue Dog Coalition, an alliance of 26 centrist lawmakers, introduced a bill on Thursday requiring U.S. intelligence to report any efforts by China to “exploit the COVID-19 pandemic to advance [its] national security and foreign policy interests.”

Under the new legislation, the Director of National Intelligence and Secretaries of Defense and Homeland Security would have three months to submit a report to Congress on possible Chinese wrongdoing tied to the coronavirus.

The proposal, called the “Preventing China from Exploiting COVID-19 Act”, was introduced by Rep. Kendra Horn, D-Okla., co-chair of the Blue Dog Coalition’s Task Force on National Security.

“No one should seek to exploit the COVID-19 pandemic for political or economic advantage,” said Horn in a statement. “We must examine whether the Chinese Communist Party has used intellectual cyber-theft, misinformation campaigns, and aggressive territorial maneuvers, among other tactics to take advantage of the pandemic. We need to get to the bottom of where the Chinese government has exploited COVID-19 and undermined our fight against the global pandemic. Where they’ve crossed the line, they must be held accountable.”

Early in 2020, Chinese officials spent weeks downplaying the size of its coronavirus outbreak, which epidemiologists say originated in the city of Wuhan. During that time, the virus spread to the rest of the world and many countries wasted crucial time that could have been used to lessen the severity of their outbreaks.

China has since seemingly managed to contain two separate waves of the virus through aggressive testing and contact tracing methods. But some experts say the Chinese government is using the global panic set off by the pandemic to expand its political influence across the world.

In April, as powerful nations were dealing with COVID-19 spikes, China claimed sovereignty over two new territories in the disputed waters of the South China Sea.

Additionally, China-sponsored hackers may be carrying out an extensive coronavirus phishing campaign, sending fake emails about the virus laced with malware designed to scam internet users, according to a report by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

“From the opioid epidemic, to trade, to our intellectual property, China has a long history of trying to rip off America,” said Rep. Max Rose, D-N.Y., who co-sponsored the bill. “Why should we think the coronavirus pandemic would be any different? It’s not a question of if, but how China is going to use this crisis to its advantage — and we need to be working to prevent that.”

In May, the Blue Dog Coalition sent a letter urging House Leaders to support a federal inquiry into the Chinese government’s actions during the pandemic as part of the National Defense Authorization Act.

“We cannot let the Chinese government’s campaign of dishonesty and disinformation continue without consequence, especially when it is placing American lives in danger,” the letter said.

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