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China's state-run newspaper, the Global Times, has essentially told Tesla CEO Elon Musk to knock it off after the billionaire tweeted about the US Department of Energy's claim that the COVID pandemic started in a lab in Wuhan, China — a controversial theory that has proven divisive among researchers and government officials.

The stakes are quite real for the billionaire. Wading into the debate and supporting the idea that COVID started in a Chinese lab could threaten a key relationship for Tesla, a company that has made major strides in building and selling vehicles in the country.

Musk recently tweeted in response to a CNN report about the Energy Department's assessment that it had determined — albeit with "low confidence" — that the COVID pandemic likely originated in a Chinese laboratory, an assertion that has clearly enraged Chinese officials, as CNBC reports.

Musk accused Anthony Fauci, who served as president Joe Biden's chief medical advisor during the COVID pandemic, of using a "pass-through organization" to fund research that eventually caused the virus to leak from a lab, an unfounded conspiracy theory, furthered by Republican senator Rand Paul, that was debunked back in 2021.

Now, in a report spotted by CNBC's Eunice Yoon, the Global Times warned Musk that he could be "breaking the pot of China," an expression that roughly translates to the English idiom "to bite the hand that feeds you," according to Yoon.

The lab leak theory Musk tweeted about used an argument that "is repeatedly used by the US right-wing and anti-China media hostile to China to frame China," the Global Times argued, as translated by Yoon.

Over the weekend, the Wall Street Journal first reported on a classified intelligence report that circulated among lawmakers, revealing the Energy Department's conclusion that the COVID pandemic most likely started in a Wuhan lab.

That means both the Energy Department and the Federal Bureau of Investigation now support the lab leak theory. According to the WSJ, however, four other agencies, as well as a national intelligence panel, do not support the theory and argue that the virus was mostly a result of natural transmission.

It's a thorny issue that has been causing rifts between both sides of the political aisle in the US since the very beginning of the pandemic. But experts agree, we'll likely never get a firm answer on whether COVID started in a lab or not — a debate that will likely only continue to erode already strained international relations as time goes on.

Now, whether it'll threaten Tesla's tenuous foothold in China adds to the drama. After all, Musk hates to be told not to do something.

READ MORE: China’s CCP warns Elon Musk against sharing Wuhan lab leak report [CNBC]

More on lab leak theories: The Lab Leak Theory Is a Tragic Hall of Mirrors That'll Probably Never Have a Satisfying Answer

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