Is the tough enough on China and the origins of COVID?
It has been nearly three weeks since president Joe Biden called on the U.S. intelligence community to produce a report on the origins of the COVID-19 pandemic, stating the country would "press China to participate" in a full investigation.
The question of where exactly the virus came from has remained unanswered despite a World Health Organization (WHO) probe earlier this year that many countries claimed "lacked access to complete, original data" in a joint statement.
Calls for further investigation into the pandemics origins have been met with concern by some—notably Anthony Fauci, the U.S. top infectious disease expert, who has warned against taking an accusatory stance.
In an interview with MSNBC on June 3, Fauci said there was "a lot of pointing of fingers" and added: "Obviously you want openness and cooperation. One of the ways you can get it, is dont be accusatory. Try to get both a forensic, a scientific, and an investigational approach. I think the accusatory part about it is only going to get them to pull back even more."
Fauci has been criticized by David Asher, former head of the State Departments COVID-19 origins investigation, who has voiced frustration at what he sees as a lack of interest on the part of the National Institutes of Health in pursuing the lab-leak COVID origin theory, according to the Financial Times.
Experts in global health and national security have told Newsweek that cooperation is the best way forward; others have criticized what they called a lack of transparency on Chinas part.
Bruce Jones, director and a senior fellow in the Project on International Order and Strategy of the Foreign Policy program at the Brookings Institution, thinks the U.S. has broadly struck the right balance on its stance toward China so far—a nation he said has "gone out of its way to alienate" other countries.
He told Newsweek: "Biden is right to look hard into this. It doesnt matter much to the ongoing handling of COVID-19, but it matters a great deal to preventing the next epidemic outbreak.
"Theres not a lot of cooperation with China on COVID-19 right now in any case. Because it emanated from inside Chinas borders, Beijing has from the outset taken a very truculent approach to cooperation on this issue.
"There were fundamental failures of transparency at the very onset. Those dont excuse the major mistakes of the Trump administration, but they certainly weakened the initial global response."
Pointing to a potential animal origin, Adalja said determining whether or not this is the case would help humans change the way we interact with that animal. He said it would also be important to learn if there was a lab leak because "we should all be able to learn from any type of safety mishap that may have occurred."
He told Newsweek: "The norm with biosafety should be transparency so that everyone can learn from each others mistakes and improve biosafety in labs."
He added that "obfuscation, curtailing the freedom of the press, and concocting stories about U.S. origins is not conducive to diplomacy" and highlighted Chinas ongoing tensions with Taiwan.