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Condoleezza Rice: 'Wasn't worth trusting' China in early stages of pandemic

"Yes, maybe there was a little bit too much trusting of the Chinese" government by U.S. officials in the early stages of the coronavirus pandemic, former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice told CBS News' John Dickerson on Sunday's edition of Face the Nation.

Rice explained that given what the George W. Bush administration experienced with the Chinese government's handling of the SARS pandemic — Rice was the national security adviser at the time and told Dickerson "we couldn't get answers" from Beijing — and the threat of an avian flu outbreak in the early 2000s, in retrospect it "wasn't worth trusting that the Chinese were being transparent" about COVID-19 this time around. For example, Rice said she believes "there was too much of a tendency early on to dismiss the possibility of a laboratory leak," a theory that more experts now consider plausible.

Rice clarified that she wants to "give people a break" because "when you're in the middle of one of these unfolding crises, you don't really know what's going on." Still, she said if the U.S. wants to avoid "repeating this problem ... we're going to have to be a little bit more aggressive with the Chinese about the need to cooperate."