'Conspiracy': China hits back after Biden calls for an investigation into Covid origins

China on Thursday hit back at President Joe Biden's call to redouble efforts to determine the origins of the coronavirus, and dismissed a theory that the virus may have leaked from a lab in Wuhan as a "conspiracy."

Chinese officials accused the U.S. of politicizing the pandemic and said that international experts had "repeatedly praised China's open and transparent attitude" to Covid-19's origins.

"Some people in the United States completely ignore facts and science," Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian told reporters on Thursday.

He added that a World Health Organization probe had already ruled out the probability of a lab leak.

A joint fact-finding mission with China and WHO scientists took place in China in January and found it was "extremely unlikely" that the virus had leaked from a Wuhan lab.

Still, U.S. intelligence agencies told NBC News in February they had not ruled out the possibility that a lab accident had led to the leak of the virus.

China's heated response to Biden's probe comes after more than a year of blame-trading between Washington and Beijing over whether China bears responsibility for the pandemic that was first identified in the city of Wuhan late 2019.

While the Biden administration has not employed the same racist rhetoric as former-President Donald Trump's did, his White House has maintained pressure on China to be more transparent about what it knew and when.

China's ruling Communist Party has been criticized by some world leaders and scientists for not raising the international alarm quickly enough over the coronavirus outbreak and for reprimanding Wuhan doctors who did so, among them Dr. Li Wenliang, an ophthalmologist who later died of the virus.

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Zhao also disparaged the U.S. intelligence community — charged by Biden with looking deeper into Covid's origins — as "unreliable."

"The world is familiar with the dark past of the U.S. intelligence agencies," he said, listing U.S. involvement in wars in Iraq and Syria.

In a statement late Wednesday, which does not name Biden as is customary for Chinese officials who avoid directly attacking the president, the Chinese Embassy in Washington D.C. also hit out at "smear" campaigns and "blame shifting" in heated language last heard in exchanges between Chinese officials and Trump.

The embassy also dismissed the Wuhan lab leak theory as a "conspiracy" and called for a "comprehensive study of all early cases of Covid-19 found worldwide."

While the virus was first identified in China, which enforced stringent lockdowns, the country has emerged from the pandemic with relatively few officially recorded deaths — just under 5,000 people — and a healthy economy.

Officials in Beijing point out that the U.S., meanwhile, has registered almost 600,000 deaths, and has been accused of a dangerously disorganized response to the crisis, particularly under Trump.

Biden on Wednesday said he had asked the intelligence officials to get to the bottom of the origins of the coronavirus, after new reports raised questions about whether it spread from a laboratory in Wuhan.

The intelligence community has been unable to reach a "definitive conclusion" on the origins of the virus, he said in a statement, and is conflicted on whether it came from human contact with an infected animal or from a laboratory accident.

China's heated language was echoed in state media, which also pointed the finger at U.S. biolabs in Asia and at Fort Detrick in Maryland — repeating theories that are not backed up by evidence.

"The U.S. wants a presumption of guilt," an editorial in the state-owned Global Times wrote on Wednesday. Adding that the lab leak theory was "completely unfeasible" and "a political insult to Chinese scientists."

Despite the exchanges, it's important that political leaders in all countries get to the bottom of the virus' origins, said virologist Dr. Cheryl Walter at England's University of Hull.

"We must do everything in our power and that potentially includes at a political level to prevent another pandemic like this from arising," she told NBC News. "Transparency from countries including government and research laboratories in those countries is so important."

"The world needs answers," she added.

Biden has instructed officials to report back in 90 days with any findings.

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