The intelligence briefings in recent weeks, based at least in part on information from C.I.A. assets in China, played an important role in President Trump’s negotiation on Thursday of an apparent détentewith President Xi Jinping of China. Since then, both countries have ratcheted back criticism of each other.
Obtaining a more accurate count of the Chinese rate of infection and deaths from the virus has worldwide public health implications at a time of grave uncertainty over the virus, its speed of transmission and other fundamental questions. For American officials, the totals are critical to getting a better understanding of how Covid-19 will affect the United States in the months to come and of the effectiveness of countermeasures like social distancing, according to American intelligence agencies and White House officials.