The Biden administration in Washington has disagreed with the strategy of the Chinese government in dealing with Covid-19 but has adopted a restrained position towards the protests seen there in recent days.
The White House said on Monday that zero Covid was not a policy that was being pursued in the United States.
It also said in a statement that “everyone has the right to protest peacefully”.
However, the White House, at a briefing, did not specifically say it supported those taking part in protests in China. It repeated that it backed the right to peaceful protest. It said it did not have any more detail about the geographic spread and nature of the protests taking place in China than was available in the media generally. It said the administration and the president were watching developments closely.
The White House said it had not received any approaches from Chinese authorities to secure access to US-made Covid vaccines.
The protests in Chinese cities in recent days have come at a time when the US tensions with Beijing. US president Joe Biden met Chinese leader Xi Jinping for nearly three hours earlier this month on the margins of the G20 summit in Indonesia. The White House said Covid was discussed during this meeting.
There have been tensions between the US and China over Taiwan, while at the same time Washington has wanted to dissuade Beijing from providing support to Russia for its war in Ukraine.
The White House said on Monday that it was unlikely that China would be able to contain the virus by following its zero-Covid policy.
“We’ve long said everyone has the right to peacefully protest, in the United States and around the world. This includes in the People’s Republic of China.”
Unlike in China, the Biden administration policy for dealing with Covid now centres largely on trying to build up immunity to the virus in the population by encouraging people to get vaccinated and having testing and treatment easily accessible rather than relying on lockdowns or mask mandates.
For high-risk groups new drug treatments are also available.
Just under 70 per cent of the US population is fully vaccinated, with more than 80 per cent having received at least one dose.
There are about 300 deaths from Covid daily on average in the US
In an interview in September, President Biden maintained that the pandemic was “over”.
Following his meeting with Xi in Bali, Biden said he believed that a conflict with China could be avoided although both countries would compete vigorously.
The White House said at the time that Biden had raised concerns about China’s practices in Xinjiang, Tibet and Hong Kong, and human rights more broadly.
It said that on Taiwan, Biden had “laid out in detail that our one-China policy has not changed, the United States opposes any unilateral changes to the status quo by either side, and the world has an interest in the maintenance of peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait”.
The White House said the president had raised US objections to China’s “coercive and increasingly aggressive actions toward Taiwan, which undermine peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait and in the broader region, and jeopardise global prosperity”.