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Brief # 120 – Foreign Policy 

Biden’s Covid Investigation in China Pt.1

By Erin Meyer 

July 2, 2021

Policy Summary

The Biden Administration has asked the intelligence community to investigate the potential Wuhan laboratory leak allegation. President Biden’s statement was clear. “I have now asked the Intelligence Community to redouble their efforts to collect and analyze information that could bring us closer to a definitive conclusion, and to report back to me in 90 days. As part of that report, I have asked for areas of further inquiry that may be required, including specific questions for China.”

China has denied and rebuffed the potential accusation that Covid-19 originated in a laboratory in China. “Smear campaigns and blame shifting are making a comeback, and the conspiracy theory of ‘lab leak’ is resurfacing,” the Chinese embassy in the US released in a statement.

White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan stated that China’s Xi Jinping’s administration would encounter “isolation” in regards to its foreign relations if the country were to resist or deny corroboration to assist the investigation behind the initial outbreak of Covid-19. Sullivan commented that the international and diplomatic stress may play a part in pressuring Beijing to cooperate further. “It is that diplomatic spadework – rallying the nations of the world, imposing political and diplomatic pressure on China, that is a core part of the effort we are undertaking to ultimately face China with a stark choice: either they will allow, in a responsible way, investigators in to do the real work of figuring out where this came from, or they will face isolation in the international community,” Mr Sullivan said.

Policy Analysis

As the Covid-19 outbreak initially began to hit the United States, former President Trump was pushing a separate agenda in regards to the origins of the virus. He and his ilk claimed it originated in a  virus lab in Wuhan, where the virus was first documented to have occurred. The rumors escaping the Trump administration didn’t stop there. Trump and his followers also assisted in pushing a bold claim that “coronavirus was a bioweapon created in China.” There has been no evidence to support this claim at this point in time. Nonetheless, these accusations, without proof, were considered an insult by Chinese leadership. Xi Jinping’s administration claimed that the U.S. government was using these theories as a distraction from the failure to contain the outbreak domestically.

US President Joe Biden’s request for a deeper look into the origins of the coronavirus has the potential to significantly disrupt international relations around the world but more specifically between the United States and China. President Biden has recently expressed that a large part of the intelligence community hascoalesced” around the two potential origin points being the possibility of “human contact with an infected animal or from a laboratory accident” however there is not currently enough information to accurately predict which of the two is the true culprit. So why now? President Trump vowed to produce conclusive evidence to prove the origin of the Covid-19 virus but did not. Fast forward to 2021 and it would not be in President Biden’s interest to be perceived as any less resolute.

On July 1st, in celebration of the Chinese Communist Party centenary, President Xi Jinping warned that any country that would challenge China’s objectives “will find their heads bashed bloody against a great wall of steel.” Former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo spoke out about Jinping’s comment, claiming the fault lies with President Biden who has been too weak in the face of Chinese’s resistance to assist in the Covid-19 investigation. Pompeo highlighted what he believes is Biden’s resistance to castigate Jinping’s administrations.

The impact on international relations could be devastating. In March of 2020, Chinese government official Lijian Zhao went as far as to estimate that the “US army who brought the epidemic to Wuhan.” The government of China clearly would prefer to be recognized as a nation that overcame the virus locally and not the country responsible for releasing it upon the planet. Internationally, China is trying to paint it’s own image as a culpable, magnanimous world power that is assisting other nations with medical supplies through its mask diplomacy.

Add  all of this to the events at the recent G20 meeting. The South China Morning Post wrote of the meeting, “The United States has told the G20 foreign ministers that ‘effective and accountable’ international institutions are needed as Beijing pointedly warned against empty calls for multilateralism and ‘vaccine hoarding’ by richer countries.” As tensions between the two nations rise, how will the Biden administration react?

Engagement Resources

COVID-19 Contact Tracing Communication Toolkit for Health Departments: State and local health department staff can use or adapt these ready-made materials to educate their community about case investigation and contact tracing for COVID-19.

Van Dermyden Makus COVID-19 Investigative Services and Resources – assists clients during the swiftly changing circumstances brought by COVID-19, we have consolidated information related to their services and practices that are directly relevant to current work conditions.

USA.Gov Covid Resources: Learn about the types of assistance the federal government offers people and businesses affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. This includes COVID-19 loans, debt relief, and grants that can help small businesses continue operating and paying their employees. Learn about the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) and other SBA coronavirus relief options for businesses.

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Take a review on the Biden administration’s progress and updates on the Covid-19 investigation in China. How will this investigation impact diplomacy between the two strong nations?

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