China should forgive U.S. debt as 'restitution’ for coronavirus, senator says

GOP senator: While bill's details still undecided, support among lawmakers is growing to make China pay 'some form of restitution'

Updated: May 29, 2020 - 6:24pm

Sen. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn., is calling on China to forgive its share of the U.S. debt, which she says would be a “good solid step” toward "restitution" for the loss of life and economic distress that Beijing's mishandling of coronavirus has caused America.

The virus started in Wuhan, China, and was first reported by Chinese officials in late-December. Some U.S. officials and others suspect China was late to make the outbreak public and under-reported the number of cases. 

“We do know that there is a growing opinion among our colleagues that China needs to be, first of all, held to account for what they've done," Blackburn said in an exclusive interview with Just the News. "Secondly, they need to pay for what this has cost in life and livelihood and suffering and what it has cost our economy.” 

China holds $1.08 trillion of the U.S. national debt, according to the most recent Treasury Department data. The debt held by the public is $18.2 trillion and the total debt, including intra-governmental holdings, is $24.2 trillion.

“China owns a trillion dollars or holds a trillion of our debt so waiving that would be a good solid step," said Blackburn, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee. "There are other things that we can also do to make certain that the message gets across."

Blackburn said that she has spoken with many activists in China who “believe that the Communist Party was fully aware that they had an outbreak on their hands and they hid that for 51 days.”

The Tennessee Republican and member of the Senate Judiciary Committee also said the Chinese government was “slow” to turn over a virus sample to the U.S. government so it could start doing testing and begin working on a vaccine for COVID-19, the disease that the coronavirus creates in those infected. 

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“There was an ingredient that we needed for research on a possible vaccine, and China said we might not give that to you. So these are all things that point to their awareness that what they were doing was inappropriate,” she said.

Blackburn acknowledged that her proposal to have China forgive U.S. debt, if passed, would still require action from the Treasury Department.

“We haven't talked through exactly what that way forward would be," she said. "But we do know that there are more people that agree that China should be required to make some form of restitution for this."

She said that “the first concrete action” Congress could take against China is passing her Senate Resolution 553, which would "condemn" China's government for hiding information on the coronavirus and not being "transparent in their dealings when they tried to blame it on the U.S. military.”

Blackburn is also sponsoring bipartisan legislation that calls for the return of all "active pharmaceutical ingredients," which are the building blocks of prescription drugs, to the U.S. "so that we're never caught in the position of not being able to get something we need in order to protect the people of our country.”

According to the Securing America’s Medicine Cabinet Act, only 28% of facilities producing active pharmaceutical ingredients are in the United States, and the number of Chinese facilities has more than doubled since 2010.

The language in the bill states that it seeks to "encourage pharmaceutical drug manufacturers to spur innovations similar to those in other industries such as automotive, aerospace and semiconductors and bring drug manufacturing back to the United States, where ingredients and processes can be more easily verified."

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