Since the earliest days of the COVID-19 pandemic, speculation has swirled over whether China played a key role in allowing the virus to spread globally.
In that vein, President Joe Biden faced public pressure to bring up the subject during his recent virtual meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping — but White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki has apparently admitted that such a confrontation did not take place.
Biden lets opportunity slip away
For its part, China has denied any wrongdoing in connection with the origin of the pandemic.
When an initial probe seemed to suggest the virus was not the result of a leak at a virology institute in Wuhan, China, the nation has stood in the way of potential follow-up investigations.
As such, many Americans expected Biden to nudge China in the direction of allowing a closer look at the circumstances surrounding COVID-19’s origins.
Fox News Channel White House correspondent Peter Doocy pressed Psaki on the matter this week.
During Thursday’s press conference, he asked the White House spokesperson why the president neglected to seek Xi’s assistance in tracking down the source of the virus.
“We’ve never held back on that front”
Although she did not directly answer the question, Psaki seemed to acknowledge that the subject did not come up, stating: “I would say the president’s path for the Chinese to participate more, provide more transparent data and information … we’ve never held back on that front. We’ve argued for it publicly, we’ve argued for it at every level and the president did talk in his meeting about the importance of transparency, which this is exactly an example of.”
Doocy doubled down, asking Psaki if Biden “asked President Xi to cooperate specifically with this U.S. intel agency-led investigation into the origins.”
The press secretary merely reiterated that “it’s clear that that’s what we want,” noting that she had nothing more to add.
Biden and Xi held their summit this week and it appeared to start on a positive note with the Chinese president calling his American counterpart an “old friend.”
Perhaps it is Biden’s willingness to let a major issue like COVID-19 slip by during a one-on-one meeting that has made him such a valuable “old friend” to China’s authoritarian leader.