China is unafraid to take digs at the Biden administration, especially regarding foreign policy, as accusations that China is covering up the origins of the coronavirus pandemic put additional strain on its relationship with the U.S.
Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said peace is "fraying at the edge" as the U.S. competes with China and other powers in his commencement address at the Air Force Academy on Wednesday.
"We are now in the 76th year of the great power peace following World War II, and it is under stress," Milley told graduating cadets. The four-star general admitted the U.S. was in "a great power competition with China and Russia." The challenge, he added, has been to stay competitive but avoid a "great power conflict."
Milley also commented to Fox News about the Chinese government's "lack of transparency" investigating the pandemic's origins.
"What I said a year ago, it's still true today. It's inconclusive, we don't know," Milley said. "Once this virus started appearing, there seems to have been a fair amount of activity or cover-up or lack of transparency, probably the best way to put it, and all of that is disturbing. So we need to get to the bottom of it. That’s clear."
However, the Biden administration would not commit to punishing China should the lab leak theory be proven true.
"We haven't ruled out anything yet," principal deputy press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters during Wednesday's press briefing when asked whether the virus had emerged in a manner that was "deliberate or not an accident."
"Would the president seek to punish China?" Fox News’ Peter Doocy asked Jean-Pierre.
"We're not going to go there just yet," Jean-Pierre replied, "We have to go through the 90-day review. And once we have the 90-day review, will we be able to reassess."
Biden previously said he had asked the intelligence community to "redouble their efforts" to "bring us closer to a definitive conclusion" and get back to him within 90 days.
Chinese officials have tried to turn such accusations on their heads.
"What secrets are hidden in suspicion-shrouded #FortDetrick [and] the 200+ #US bio-labs all over the world? In July 2019, there were reports on the unexplained outbreaks of respiratory disease in northern Virginia and on the subsequent EVALI outbreaks in Wisconsin," Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesperson Zhao Lijian wrote on Twitter on Thursday.
EVALI refers to e-cigarette, or vaping, product use-associated lung injuries.
Meanwhile, Chinese officials took aim at the U.S. amid the Israeli-Palestinian conflict earlier in May. Their statements came after the U.S. spoke out against China's treatment of Uighurs at a United Nations event in mid-May.
U.S. Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield said the Biden administration "will keep standing up and speaking out until China’s government stops its crime against humanity and the genocide of Uighurs and other minorities in Xinjiang."
"And we will keep working in concert with our allies and our partners until China’s government respects the universal human rights of all its people," she said.
Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs officials were quick to accuse the U.S. of turning "a blind eye to the sufferings of Palestinian Muslims."
"The #US claims that it cares about the #HumanRights of #Muslims. But it turns a blind eye to the sufferings of #Palestinian Muslims in recent clashes between #Israel and #Palestine," a Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs account wrote on Twitter on May 14.
"See what "#HumanRights defender" the s brought to #Gaza people," Zhao wrote on Twitter on May 19 along with a cartoon of a bald eagle dropping a missile on Gaza.
Zhao has also repeatedly used the fallout from the death of George Floyd, who was Black, at the hands of a White police officer to accuse the U.S. of widespread human rights abuses.
"Police abuse — An intractable #humanrights problem in the #US society," he wrote on Twitter on Wednesday.
In March, Chinese and State Department officials sparred during a meeting in Anchorage, Alaska.
"We believe that it is important for the United States to change its own image and to stop advancing its own democracy in the rest of the world," Chinese Communist Party foreign affairs chief Yang Jiechi told U.S. officials. "Many people within the United States actually have little confidence in the democracy of the United States."
Shortly before the meeting, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced new sanctions over Beijing’s crackdown on pro-democracy advocates in Hong Kong. In response, China stepped up its rhetoric opposing U.S. interference in domestic affairs and complained directly about it.
Fox News' Lucas Y. Tomlinson, Morgan Phillips and The Associated Press contributed to this report.