In Congress itself, activity against China and COVID-19 is increasing. A number of resolutions condemning China were tabled for discussion. They aptly illustrate the changes in the anti-Chinese narrative. One of the first such resolutions appeared in the Senate in February (No. 497 of February 11, 2020). It noted the merits of Chinese doctor Li Wenliang, one of the first doctors to warn of the dangers of the new virus. He died from COVID-19 and, according to the US position, became a victim of censorship by the Chinese authorities. The resolution was quite moderate; it called on China to be open and cooperate with the United States. At the same time, purely political elements appear in it, for example, “support for the people of China in their demand for freedom of speech
Subsequent documents take on a sharper tone. House Resolution No. 907 of March 24, 2020 condemned the PRC for censoring reports of the virus in the initial stages of the epidemic, for turning down a proposal to cooperate with the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for a month, and also for denying that the disease is transmitted from person to person. Gripes and demands that were not directly related to COVID-19 were added to this. In particular, they included calls to release the detained Uyghur Muslims and close all programmes related to forced labour.
This conflation of the response to COVID-19 theme with other sensitive issues only further politicised the countries’ discordance. A similar resolution (No. 552 of March 24, 2020) was adopted in the Senate. It directly blamed the epidemic on the Chinese government and called for an international investigation led by the medical authorities of the United States and other affected countries. An important part of the resolution is a call to the international community to calculate the damage, as well as to identify mechanisms of compensation for damage by the PRC
. Later, the House of Representatives also supported these requirements.
An interesting development of the narrative took place by the end of April 2020. Resolution of the House of Representatives No. 944 (April 28, 2020) directly linked the COVID-19 epidemic with the suppression of human rights in China. Even more interesting is the call to the United States and other affected countries to withhold payments on loans from China, in payment of damage caused by COVID-19. Such a proposal is especially interesting, as it comes from the legislators of a state where China is a major creditor.
Along with the resolutions, congressmen also offered a series of bills. On March 26, a bill was introduced in the House of Representatives on the need to develop a strategy for demanding reparations from Chin
a. On April 7, a bill was proposed in the House to posthumously award Dr. Lee Wenliang with the Congressional Gold Medal, the highest civilian award in the United States.
On May 4, a voluminous bill, the Law on Justice for Victims of Coronavirus, appeared in the Senate.
As expected, a series of bills appeared, the adoption of which would mean the imposition of sanctions against China. So far, there are three such bills. Moreover, each new set of proposed measures was more radical than the last. The first draft, entitled “Ending Chinese Medical Censorship and Cover Ups Act of 2020," was proposed by Republican Senator Ted Cruz
. It involves freezing assets (blocking sanctions) and launching visa sanctions against PRC officials who are responsible for censoring and restricting information, including on epidemiological issues. The president will have to make a list of such persons (if the bill is adopted) at least once a year.
The second was the bill of Republican Senator Tom Cotton and a number of his party members under the name of Li Wenliang Global Public Health Accountability Act. It involves similar blocking and visa sanctions against Chinese officials, whom the US President considers to be involved in the censorship of medical information, including with respect to COVID-19. Innovation is the norm; the president is obliged to compile lists of persons against whom sanctions will be imposed, the opinion of Congress, as well as “reliable information received from states and non-profit organisations that monitor human rights and global medical problems
Finally, the third bill was introduced by Senator Lindsay Graham (who is already well-known in Russia), together with several of his associates in the Republican Party.
It reflects the already well-known mix of COVID-19 and human rights issues. The President is obligated to verify within 60 days that China has provided a complete and comprehensive response to any investigation into COVID-19 conducted by the United States, allies, or UN organisations; closed all wet markets, which may become a source of risk for new diseases; and released all “democracy supporters” in Hong Kong who have been arrested since the start of the COVID-19 epidemic.
Obviously, all these requirements are simply not feasible, neither technically nor politically. If they are not complied with, the president is authorised to use at least two types of sanctions out of six. To blocking and visa restrictions are added bans on issuing student visas to the Chinese, a ban on US financial institutions from lending to Chinese organisations, a block on loans to international organisations, and a ban on companies with a controlling stake in the hands of the Chinese from participating in stock quotes.
In other words, unlike the previous two bills, we are talking about much more radical measures. The US executive is unlikely to support such a bill in its current version. If the administration applies sanctions, it is more likely to be according to the model of the first two bills. Lindsey Graham’s “Draconian Sanctions,” are fraught with great damage to Americans themselves.