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Condoleezza Rice: ‘Maybe there was a little bit too much of trusting of the Chinese’ at beginning of pandemic

Former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice on Sunday said the U.S. may have been too trusting of the Chinese government in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Were [U.S. officials] too accommodating of China in the sense that early on we were told the Chinese are on top of it? I can’t imagine during the Cold War U.S. government ever saying, ‘Well, the Russians have told us they’re on the case. Everything’s fine.’ Were we too trusting of the Chinese?” host John Dickerson asked Rice on CBS’s “Face the Nation.”

“That’s a really good point, John,” Rice said, adding, “Maybe there was a little bit too much of trusting of the Chinese.”

She said former President Trump’s decision to enact border closures and travel restrictions with China in the early days of the pandemic was “incredibly appropriate.”

“I think there were even those who said that President Trump’s early decisions about border closures and travel restrictions were xenophobic or are not appropriate. Turns out they were incredibly appropriate,” Rice said.

Rice also said that given what the U.S. experienced with the SARS and avian flu outbreaks in the early 2000s, she does not think it was “worth trusting that the Chinese were being transparent about what was going on there.”

Rice, who served as secretary of State during the George W. Bush administration, also weighed in on President Biden’s probe of the origins of COVID-19 and the theory that the virus may have leaked from a lab in Wuhan.

When asked by Dickerson what advice she would give Biden about “trying to get actual answers to what happened,” Rice said the “first thing” is to “recognize that there was too much of a tendency early on to dismiss the possibility of a laboratory leak.”

When asked separately if the next age of national security challenges will be centered around America’s “relationship and tensions with China,” Rice did not mince words, telling Dickerson that “certainly the great rival now is China,” adding that she thinks it is a challenge that “can be met.”

“It’s different than the Cold War because during the Cold War our great rival, the Soviet Union, was a military giant, but it was frankly a technological midget and economically completely isolated from the international economy. China is very different,” Rice said.

“It is a technological giant. It is increasingly seeking military capabilities that look as if they are trying to change the balance in the Asia Pacific. So it’s a different kind of challenge, but it’s one that I think can be met,” she added.

Tags China Condoleezza Rice COVID-19 pandemic Donald Trump Joe Biden

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