Secretary of State Antony Blinken criticized the way China handled the COVID-19 pandemic, saying that it failed to cooperate and be as transparent as possible in the early days of the outbreak. Blinken said that there needs to be a more thorough investigation into where the coronavirus originated and how it spread so quickly. “I think China knows that in the early stages of COVID, it didn’t do what it needed to do, which was to, in real time, give access to international experts, in real time to share information, in real time to provide real transparency,” Blinken said on NBC’s Meet the Press.
The country’s top diplomat went on to say that Beijing’s attitude helped the coronavirus spread more quickly. “And one result of that failure is that the vaccine—the virus, excuse me—got out of hand faster and with I think much more egregious results than it might otherwise,” Blinken said. He did not answer whether he believes China knows more than it is saying about how the virus originated but did state that the pandemic should be the jumping off point to build a “stronger global health security system” to try to prevent, or at least mitigate, future pandemics. “That means making a real commitment to transparency, to information sharing, to access for experts,” Blinken said. “It means strengthening the World Health Organization and reforming it so it can do that. And China has to play a part in that.”
In the meantime though there needs to be a thorough investigation of what happened. “We need to get to the bottom of this,” Blinken said. “We need to do that precisely so we fully understand what happened, in order to have the best shot possible preventing it from happening again.” Blinken’s words marked a more diplomatic turn from his predecessor, who had claimed without providing evidence that the coronavirus had started in a research lab in Wuhan. But it still signaled that President Joe Biden’s administration is skeptical of China’s official narrative about how the pandemic began.
Blinken also warned that the United States is concerned about China’s aggressive moves against Taiwan and warned it would be a “serious mistake for anyone to try to change the existing status quo by force.” Asked about the possibility of responding with military force, Blinken said he would not discuss hypothetical scenarios. “All I can tell you is we have a serious commitment to Taiwan being able to defend itself,” he said. Blinken also said the United States has “real concerns about Russia’s actions near the border with Ukraine. “The question is, ‘is Russia going to continue to act aggressively and recklessly?’ If it does, the President has been clear, there’ll be costs, there’ll be consequences,” he said.