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Republicans Attack Blinken for China Trip, Threatening Subpoena

Leading congressional Republicans excoriated Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken on Friday for traveling to China this weekend, accusing him of undermining national security by attempting to normalize diplomatic relations with Beijing as they press for a more hard-line approach.

Representative Michael McCaul, Republican of Texas and the chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee, threatened to subpoena Mr. Blinken if he failed to produce documents by Friday evening detailing the list of retaliatory actions the U.S. government has considered against China, and when they were applied.

“The Biden administration’s weak actions on the global stage continue to embolden the C.C.P.,” Representative Elise Stefanik of New York, the No. 4 Republican in the House, said in a statement. The secretary of state’s trip, she added, will “legitimize” the Chinese Communist Party’s “continued subversion of our sovereignty.”

The clash reflects two divergent approaches to dealing with a rising China, and could influence forthcoming debates over military spending. Republicans have accused the Biden administration of responding fecklessly to Chinese provocations, like the spy balloon that flew over the United States earlier this year, and argue it would be more prudent to make displays of military solidarity with Taiwan than pursue a diplomatic thaw.

“Engagement disconnected from a robust military deterrent? I’m not sure what it will actually achieve,” said Representative Mike Gallagher, Republican of Wisconsin and the chairman of a House panel focused on strategic competition with China.

But Democrats argue that engagement is crucial. Senator Robert Menendez of New Jersey, the chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, said he hoped that during the summit, “we can create some level of communication, particularly on the defense side, so that we can deconflict” with Beijing.

Beijing cut off a series of diplomatic, military and energy engagements with the United States last year, in the wake of then-Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan over the objections of China. Relations between the two countries experienced another setback earlier this year, when the Chinese spy balloon floated over the United States, hovering near sensitive military sites. Mr. Blinken canceled a planned trip to Beijing in the aftermath of the balloon incident.

Last week, revelations that China has operated spy facilities in Cuba since at least 2019 and recently improved their ability to monitor electronic communications inside the United States threatened to disrupt Mr. Blinken’s travel plans once again. They also inspired a round of vitriol from the G.O.P. lawmakers against Mr. Blinken for continuing to pursue high-level talks with Beijing.

Mr. McCaul is trying to prove that State Department officials intentionally dragged their feet on punishing China by demanding to see the department’s so-called competitive actions calendars. The documents would show how long it took the department to implement certain measures, such as sanctions or export controls, after they were announced, if at all.

The State Department was not expected to meet the 6 p.m. deadline Mr. McCaul set for producing the documents.

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Mohammad SHiblu

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