Biden bristles at Fox News reporter's question on China
At a press conference following his meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Geneva on Wednesday, President Biden denied the characterization of Chinese President Xi Jinping by a journalist as an "old friend" who could be persuaded to allow an international investigation into the origins of the coronavirus pandemic .
"Let's get one thing straight - we know each other well, we're not old friends," said Biden. "This is pure business."
Biden had several sharp conversations with journalists following his bilateral meeting with Putin, including one particularly heated one with CNN's Kaitlan Collins. Before boarding Air Force One on the way back to Washington, he reached out to a group of reporters and apologized for being a "wise guy."
Characterization of Biden and Xi as something other than adversaries was courtesy of Fox News reporter Peter Doocy, who has become something of a White House adversary in recent months. Doocy urged Biden whether his longstanding relationship with the Chinese leader could help as the United States and other nations try to figure out how researchers believe the pandemic started in the Chinese city of Wuhan sometime in late 2019.
"Will there be a time when you could call him from an old friend to an old friend and ask him to open up China to World Health Organization investigators trying to get to the bottom of COVID-19?" Doocy asked.
Biden may deny the terms of his relationship with Xi, but during the presidential campaign he often referred to having traveled 17,000 miles with him as Barack Obama's vice president. Xi was the Chinese Vice President at the time.
"That's how I got to know him so well," Biden said of her travels. But the extent of travel is "misleading," the Washington Post noted earlier this year. Now that both men are presidents of their respective nations, they must figure out how to resolve the virus origin problem, which for Biden shows no signs of diminishing as a domestic issue. Republicans, in particular, firmly believed that he was more forceful in confronting China with the possibility that human activities were responsible for a pandemic that has sickened 177 million people around the world.
While the scientific consensus found the virus started in a market, an alternate view is that it "escaped" from a laboratory where it was examined.
President Biden in Geneva on Wednesday. (Brendan Smialowski / AFP via Getty Images)
While Biden has expressed his belief that China has not commented on the beginnings of the coronavirus, he has yet to explain how it will confront the communist nation with the increasingly controversial question of the origins of the pandemic.
"China is trying very hard to present itself as a responsible and very, very emerging nation," the president said on Wednesday.
Biden portrayed Beijing's delivery of millions of doses of the coronavirus vaccine as an attempt by China to portray itself as a responsible global citizen. He predicted that unless the Chinese leadership allowed a more thorough investigation into the origin of the coronavirus, these efforts would be undone.
"There are certain things you don't have to explain to the people of the world," said Biden. “You see the results. Is China really trying to get to the bottom of the matter? "
Many scholars believe that the hypothesis that the coronavirus escaped the Wuhan Institute of Virology must be viewed as a serious possibility, and the theory has entered the mainstream with Biden's own approval. But evaluating what is still a highly speculative idea will be impossible without China's cooperation.
Republicans, meanwhile, are already calling for new sanctions against China, despite only evidence that a laboratory accident was responsible, and even that evidence has been vigorously denied.
World Health Organization investigators were given limited access to Wuhan, and their subsequent report - which confirmed the hypothesis that the coronavirus originated in a wildlife market there - received widespread criticism.
Biden recently asked the intelligence services to provide a detailed report on how the pandemic came about. Yahoo News reported last spring that intelligence is considering the possibility of a lab escape in the earliest stages of the pandemic.
Without full access to the Wuhan Institute of Virology - its facilities, records, and staff - no investigation is deemed complete, and that access is entirely dependent on China. Beijing has vigorously denied any evidence that its scientists are in any way responsible for the emergence of the coronavirus.
As the President's statements on Wednesday made clear, this impasse will be difficult to resolve. Biden tried to get past it and said he was "gathering the world" to stop the next pandemic. Epidemiologists assume that another one will be on the way shortly.
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