China Blasts Joe Biden's Wuhan Lab Probe as 'Smear Campaign'

The Chinese Embassy in Washington, D.C. has denounced fresh U.S. efforts to trace the origins of COVID-19, after President Joe Biden asked the intelligence community to produce a new report in 90 days.

Intelligence agencies have "coalesced around two likely scenarios" surrounding the emergence of the novel coronavirus, the president said in a White House statement on Wednesday. But a lack of data means experts have been unable to conclude whether the virus has natural or manmade origins.

A statement on the Chinese Embassy's website did not name Biden directly, but said there was "political hype" around renewed calls for origin tracing. The statement described the "lab leak" theory as a "smear campaign."

"Political forces have been fixated on political manipulation and blame game," since the start of the outbreak last year, the embassy said. Politicizing origin tracing will "seriously hamper international cooperation on the pandemic," it continued.

The statement said China supports "a comprehensive study of all early cases of COVID-19 found worldwide and a thorough investigation into some secretive bases and biological laboratories all over the world,"—hinting at U.S.-run laboratories.

China has repeatedly dismissed the probability that the coronavirus, which has claimed nearly 600,000 American lives, originated from an accident at the Wuhan Institute of Virology in central China.

On Tuesday, Chinese foreign ministry's spokesperson Zhao Lijian called it a "conspiracy theory" and said reports to the contrary were "political manipulation" meant to distract from the U.S.' failure to control the pandemic.

President Biden's new order comes amid rising doubts about the credibility of the World Health Organization and pressure from lawmakers to conduct an independent investigation. Dr. Anthony Fauci—the country's chief public health scientist—has also recently said he was "not convinced" about COVID-19's natural origins.

Biden's statement revealed that he had commissioned an intelligence report into the working theories behind the coronavirus in March, "including whether it emerged from human contact with an infected animal or from a laboratory accident."

The intelligence community has "coalesced around two likely scenarios" but "has not reached a definitive conclusion on this question," he said, adding that the agencies "do not believe there is sufficient information to assess one to be more likely than the other."

The president's statement was consistent with an update provided in April by Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines, who also listed animal-to-human transmission or a lab accident as the two leading theories.

Biden said he asked the intelligence community to "redouble their efforts to collect and analyze information that could bring us closer to a definitive conclusion, and to report back to me in 90 days."

The report would include further inquiries to be made of the Chinese government, he added.

"The United States will also keep working with like-minded partners around the world to press China to participate in a full, transparent, evidence-based international investigation and to provide access to all relevant data and evidence," the statement concluded.

In March, a joint WHO-China investigation conducted on the ground in Wuhan concluded that the probability of SARS-CoV-2 originating from a lab accident was "extremely low."

Beijing has stood by that assessment as the United Nations health body prepares the next phase of its probe into the virus.

President Joe Biden Addresses White House Press
President Joe Biden answers questions from members of the press before departing from the White House on May 25, 2021, in Washington, D.C. Biden is scheduled to make a quick trip to Wilmington before returning to Washington later this evening. (Photo by /) Win McNamee/Getty Images