China hits back at US over COVID-19 origins and Russia-related sanctions
When President Joe Biden made a surprise visit to Kyiv on Monday, February 20, he expressed his solidarity with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and vowed to give Ukraine additional military support. Biden's trip to Kyiv came four days before the one-year anniversary of Russia’s full-fledged military invasion of Ukraine.
Meanwhile, officials in Mainland China are reportedly considering military aid to Russia. And the Biden Administration has sanctioned some Chinese companies that it believes are helping Russia — a move that Mao Ning, deputy director of the Chinese Foreign Ministry Information Department, attacked as "outright bullying," according to the Associated Press.
Ning's criticism comes at a time when U.S. Energy Department officials are concluding, based on intelligence, that COVID-19 was leaked from a laboratory in China. The exact origins of COVID-19 have been debated by U.S. intelligence officials during the pandemic; COVID-19 started in Wuhan, China in late 2019 before spreading to many other parts of the world.
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On Monday, February 27, Ning complained, "While the U.S. has intensified its efforts to send weapons to one of the parties to the conflict, resulting in an endless war, it has frequently spread false information about China's supply of weapons to Russia, taking the opportunity to sanction Chinese companies for no reason. This is outright bullying and double standards."
Ning, according to AP, also claimed that the sanctions against Chinese companies "have no basis in international law" and described them as "typical illegal unilateral sanctions." And she promised that China will take "resolute countermeasures in response to the U.S. sanctions."
Among U.S. officials, there is not universal agreement that COVID-19 escaped from a lab in Mainland China. The New York Times' Julian E. Barnes, on February 26, reported, "The conclusion was a change from the (Energy) Department's earlier position that it was undecided on how the virus emerged. Some officials briefed on the intelligence said that it was relatively weak and that the Energy Department's conclusion was made with 'low confidence,' suggesting its level of certainty was not high. While the (Energy) Department shared the information with other agencies, none of them changed their conclusions, officials said."
Ning, according to Fox News, also accused the United States of politicizing COVID-19.
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Ning argued, "The origins-tracing of SARS-CoV-2 is about science and should not be politicized. China has always supported and participated in global science-based origins-tracing. 'A laboratory origin of the pandemic was considered to be extremely unlikely' is a science-based, authoritative conclusion reached by the experts of the WHO-China joint mission after field trips to the lab in Wuhan and in-depth communication with researchers. It was accurately recorded in the mission's report and has received extensive recognition from the international community."
The COVID-19 pandemic has been the world's deadliest health crisis since the Spanish flu pandemic of 1918/1919. According to Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland, COVID-19 has killed 6.8 million people worldwide — including over 1.1 million in the United States.
The New York Times' Barnes observed, "Intelligence officials believe the scrutiny of the pandemic's beginnings could be important to improving global response to future health crises, though they caution that finding an answer about the source of the virus may be difficult or even impossible given Chinese opposition to further research. Scientists say there is a responsibility to explain how a pandemic that has killed almost seven million people started, and learning more about its origins could help researchers understand what poses the biggest threats of future outbreaks."
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