On the day before he was elected, now Senator-elect Bill Hagerty looked out over the masked audience at the Shelby County Republican Party headquarters in Cordova and blamed China.

“The fact that we all have masks on today, you can thank Communist China for that,” Hagerty said. The businessman and former Ambassador to Japan’s comment was another piece of heated campaign rhetoric aimed at China, the United States’ largest trading partner and most populous nation in the world.

On Nov. 2, Hagerty stood next to Sen. Marsha Blackburn, the state’s other senator, and another frequent China critic. Now, both of Tennessee’s members of the upper chamber could be described as China hawks, adding to the growing number of Republican lawmakers who see China as among the country’s biggest national security threats.

In brief comments with reporters last week, Blackburn and Hagerty expressed a desire to bring American manufacturing back to the country, revamping supply chains and bringing outsourced jobs onshore.

Throughout the 2020 campaign season, Hagerty, and many other Republican candidates, used China as a foil and blamed the novel coronavirus on China, where it originated. They have mirrored President Donald Trump who has frequently blamed China and the “China plague” for the U.S. death toll and economic dislocation.

“We have to stand up in China, they have been our adversary at every turn. The fact that we all have masks on today, we can thank Communist China for that. [They are] predators economically, militarily and diplomatically. We need to hit China where it hurts. I want to make ‘made in the USA’ the theme of America,” Hagerty said.

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