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Blinken suddenly interested in holding China accountable

State Department Photo by Ron Przysucha

Despite all of the stories about sweetheart deals in China for Hunter Biden and the Big Guy, it appears that there are some elephants in the room that are simply too big to ignore. One of these is turning out to be the increasingly likely inconvenient truth that the novel coronavirus may indeed have leaked out of the Wuhan Institute of Virology. First, we saw President Joe Biden order an investigation to “get to the bottom” of this once verboten topic, without coming out and specifically saying anything about laboratory “accidents.” And now we have the Secretary of State declaring that China must be “held accountable.” Of course, he’s not just talking about the pandemic here. China has a lot to answer for in terms of international affairs, genocide, supply chain manipulation, and plenty more beyond that. But I suppose we should be thankful for small favors and take what we can get for now. (Axios)

Secretary of State Antony Blinken told “Axios on HBO” the Biden administration is determined to “get to the bottom” of COVID-19’s origins, and said the U.S. will hold China accountable.

Why it matters: “The most important reason we have to get to the bottom of this is that’s the only way we’re going to be able to prevent the next pandemic or at least do a better job in mitigating it,” he said during a wide-ranging interview in the State Department’s Benjamin Franklin State Dining Room.

Blinken actually expanded on those comments quite a bit, driving home the fact that it’s important for the Chinese to be open and transparent, allowing access to international inspectors. He also repeated the common theme being expressed by world leaders, insisting that it’s “profoundly in China’s interest” to come clean.

At some points, it almost sounded as if Blinken was trying a bit too hard to make sure that everyone understood that the Biden administration planned to get tough on China. He insisted that American corporations should not share any surveillance technology with the Chinese if it might be used to oppress its own people or share such technology with other oppressive regimes.

I’ll give credit where due here and say that this is the stance we’ve been waiting to see from the Biden administration from day one. Better late than never, right? The more of the western world we can get on board with presenting a unified front against China’s abuses, the better the chances that Xi Jinping will start to believe he’s overplayed his hand and at least start backing off a bit.

But at the same time, the concerns that Blinken raises are likely beyond our control for the most part. China totally whitewashed the WHO inspections intended to find the original source of the virus. (With the tacit cooperation of the WHO, it should be noted.) Not only have they failed to share data or allow unfettered inspections, but they’ve continued to spread rumors that the virus was actually manufactured in the United States. How the virus could have simultaneously made the jump to humans spontaneously in nature and been cooked up at an American military base in Maryland (their two competing theories) has yet to be explained.

The big question, as Ed Morrissey addressed this morning, is whether or not the virus shows an undeniable genetic fingerprint of having been the product of gain-of-function experiments that could only have taken place in a lab. If that idea is proven, the Chinese Communist Party then needs to answer the question of precisely what sort of research was going on. Were they simply doing medical testing to better understand dangerous viruses so we can combat them? If so, then why lie about it initially and say it came out of the wet markets? The other, more disturbing possibility is that they were working on a weapon and wound up misfiring it at their own people through a laboratory leak.

As to the non-virus issues being raised, we also shouldn’t expect a sudden wave of cooperation from the Chinese. We can stop American companies from sharing surveillance technology with China, but that horse has already largely left the barn. Besides, the Chinese have been stealing our technology for ages and are still heavily embedded in some of America’s top research facilities. We’ve identified any number of spies that have been shipping our tech to Beijing, but we can’t possibly have found them all yet.

Despite all of those concerns, we might still be able to look at this as a good first step. If Joe Biden is able to demonstrate the international diplomatic skill to get a strong alliance of western nations to draw a line in the sand against China this year, that will be a significant accomplishment. And in that event, I’ll be among the first to praise him.