Update (1200ET): Vice President Mike Pence just said during an appearance on CNN that it "would have been better" if China was more forthcoming with the US during the early days of the outbreak, and basically blamed the Chinese for the White House's slow response.
And there you have it, the purpose for this particular leak, is to begin laying out the administration's defense when accosted by critics who accuse Trump of not doing enough early on to combat the virus.
* * *
A day after China reported more than 1,500 additional "asymptomatic" cases that authorities said had been left out of the country's data, while promising to start reporting these cases (they've already reported 50 more on Wednesday, blaming most of them on travel) going forward, an intelligence report has been submitted to the White House accusing Beijing of deliberately underreporting cases.
The report, which was leaked to the US press by senior-level officials, revealed that the US believes China deliberately tried to conceal the extent of the outbreak, suggesting that Beijing's decision to lift its lockdown is probably premature, which is why they're pivoting toward blaming foreigners for these new "asymptomatic" cases that have supposedly been known to the government all along, they just simply 'forgot' to count them.
This shouldn't be a surprise to anyone, as it was widely speculated during the early phases of the outbreak. But this is the first concrete indication that US intelligence has been taking Beijing's deceptions seriously, and doesn't intend to just sit back and take it lying down. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo earlier this month blasted the Chinese for withholding data about the virus.
Here's the Bloomberg report:
China has concealed the extent of the coronavirus outbreak in its country, under-reporting both total cases and deaths it’s suffered from the disease, the U.S. intelligence community concluded in a classified report to the White House, according to three U.S. officials.
The officials asked not to be identified because the report is secret and declined to detail its contents. But the thrust, they said, is that China’s public reporting on cases and deaths is intentionally incomplete. Two of the officials said the report concludes that China’s numbers are fake.
The report was received by the White House last week, one of the officials said.
The outbreak began in China’s Hubei province in late 2019, but the country has publicly reported only about 82,000 cases and 3,300 deaths, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. That compares to more than 189,000 cases and more than 4,000 deaths in the U.S., which has the largest publicly reported outbreak in the world.
Beijing has sought to convince the Chinese people that the virus was created and spread by the US military, a "conspiracy theory" that's been dreamed up by the government and spread via state-controlled media outlets, a type of advanced-level information warfare designed to distract from the possibility that the virus may have leaked out of a Chinese bioweapons lab.
China's lies have been exposed in surprising ways, like the deliveries of urns in Wuhan. Some leaked documents have suggested that China's real numbers were 52 times higher than what Beijing allowed to be reported.
President Trump's decision to refer to the virus as the "Chinese virus" was so aggravating for Beijing because it impeded the government's effort to convince its people that the virus was made in America - though of course they didn't say that, exactly, they couched their objections in accusations of racism and faux-outrage.