The CIA seeks real numbers for the Covid-19 epidemic in China

The CIA since early February warned the White House not to trust figures on the Covid-19 epidemic in China. Photo: AP.
The CIA since early February warned the White House not to trust figures on the Covid-19 epidemic in China. Photo: AP.

The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) from early February warned the White House that Beijing was reporting significantly low numbers of corona virus infections.

The New York Times reported the assessments were based in part on CIA sources in China, according to several intelligence officials and former intelligence officials.

The aforementioned confidential reports, about what the US intelligence assesses about China, have made an important contribution to the two sides abruptly postponing and restraining their tone, after a period of stress, officials told New York Times.

China itself does not know the number

Airport staff wear full body protective clothing in Shanghai on March 28. Photo: Bloomberg.
Airport staff wear full body protective clothing in Shanghai on March 28. Photo: Bloomberg.

The exact number of infections and deaths affects public health globally, amid much uncertainty about the corona virus and its rate of spread.

For US officials, China’s numbers are crucial in predicting how the epidemic will evolve in the coming months, as well as the effectiveness of social divestment measures.

The White House and US intelligence agencies are still having a headache because they cannot estimate a more accurate figure for the disease in China, according to the New York Times.

But US intelligence agencies have come to the conclusion that China itself does not know the level of virus infection and is as vague about the disease as the world is.

Wuhan city officials, where the disease started, and other places in China have said inaccurately about the speed of spread, about testing and the number of deaths, fearing that they will be punished. If the numbers are too high, US officials and former US intelligence officials say.

US intelligence officials say reporting false data is a “chronic” issue for the authorities anywhere.

Broadly speaking, nowhere in the world knows the exact picture of the disease, because many factors are not necessarily intentional by the government, but also by the lack of a set of tests, different standards, or cases of transmission. infected when there are no symptoms, but the US quarantine agency (CDC) said it can account for up to 25%.

Iran has tried to keep the war on its own in secret, while the death toll in Italy (the world’s highest at over 13,000) does not take into account deaths outside the hospital. In the US, widespread testing is still slower than Germany and South Korea.

Chinese media also questioned

Medical personnel at a test site in Tampa, Florida. Photo: New York Times.
Medical personnel at a test site in Tampa, Florida. Photo: New York Times.

Since January, the White House has been suspicious of Chinese statistics, and has asked the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and intelligence agencies to prioritize the collection of information from China.

The CIA’s assessment of China intentionally downplayed the numbers first reported by Bloomberg on April 1, citing unnamed officials, mentioning a report of intelligence sent to the White House last week. The CIA for weeks has asked the White House not to believe the numbers Beijing is reporting to the World Health Organization (WHO).

The CIA assessments came at the same time as reports from several Chinese newspapers said the number of deaths in Wuhan could be 5,000 or more, or double the official figure.

Intelligence officials cannot verify the numbers in the Chinese press. But the warnings they gave to the White House were quite similar to that information.

China praised its strict containment measures, including the blockade of nearly 60 million people in Hubei province, that helped reduce the number of new infections, but many outside the government were concerned about the numbers. not enough.

For example, China has to wait until April 1 to report the number of asymptomatic cases it has recorded. Accordingly, the total number of people under medical supervision due to no symptoms amounted to 1,367 people.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying denied the charges, saying “US officials just want to blame”.

Chinese Ambassador to France Lu Shaye told the French BFM TV station that China did not hide the number of deaths, and said the large number of casks of ashes and the long lines of people visiting funerals in Wuhan recently were due to the new blockade order lifted, according to the South China Morning Post.

When asked about Chinese data at a press conference on April 1, Robert O’Brien, national security adviser, said the US was “not in position” to confirm China’s figure. But he still referred to information in the press that was questioning the figures.

“There is no way to verify those numbers,” Mr. O’Brien said. “There are a lot of articles asking whether that data is too low or not.”

Discussing figures, the two sides unexpectedly postponed

From the beginning of the epidemic to this week, US-China tensions have not diminished, though the virus has caused horrific casualties in both countries.

Chinese diplomats spread news, including unfounded allegations, conspiracy theories, saying the US military caused the pandemic.

President Trump also refrained from calling the virus a “Chinese virus,” and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo put aside a joint statement when he insisted on calling it a virus from China.

But after a call between Trump and Xi last week, there was an unexpected delay. Most Chinese diplomats have been more restrained in speaking.

Mr. Trump is also less harsh. When asked about the assessments of intelligence that China tried to lower the number of casualties, Mr. Trump seemed to mention some exchange with China, then shifted the topic to trade, to the Chinese deal. Quoc buys American agricultural products.

“The numbers seem a little light, and that is easy to say, compared to what we see and in the press, but we discussed with Xi … not really the figures, but what did they do, and what is the situation now, ”Mr. Trump said vaguely.

“As for the exact figures … I am not a Chinese accountant.”


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