China State-Sponsored Media: Bring On Independent Investigation, Covid-19 May Have Started In The U.S. On MAGA’s Watch

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Written by Dana Sanchez
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China’s state-sponsored media say bring on an independent investigation. Covid-19 may have started in the U.S. on MAGA’s watch. If so, Trump’s reelection is doomed. Workers at a Wuhan lab. (Image: Wuhan Virology Institute)

The pressure is growing on China with more than 100 countries calling for an independent investigation into the origins of the covid-19 pandemic.

China’s ruler Xi Jinping addressed the annual meeting of World Health Organization members on Monday, taking a conciliatory tone, CNN reported: Of course China was willing to support an investigation into the virus — once the pandemic is over.

The government of China wants you to know that although covid-19 appears to have first showed up in China, “it may not have originated in China”.

Hu Xijin, editor-in-chief of the government-controlled Global Times, tweeted on Monday, “China is not afraid of an independent investigation into the origin of the coronavirus, hope the US is not afraid of it either. Regardless where the virus originated, China’s stance is the same. But if the investigation finds it originated in the US, Trump’s reelection is doomed.”

Epidemiologist Zhong Nanshan said the virus may not have originated in China in a passing remark at a Feb. 27 press conference, Guardian reported. Later Zhong clarified that the first place where a disease is discovered does not “equate to it being the source”. He told reporters: “But neither can we conclude that the virus came from abroad. Only through investigation and tracing can we answer that question.”

Only the first part of Zhong’s comment stuck. Chinese diplomats, state media and officials took it and ran with it. It persists to this day — a useful tool for anyone who needs a conspiracy theory.

Chinese spokesmen have suggested, without evidence, that the U.S. military might have brought the virus to Wuhan, epicenter of the first known outbreak, during a visit in October 2019.  The Pentagon sent 17 teams with more than 280 athletes and other staff members to the Military World Games, which were held in Wuhan in October. That was well before any reported outbreaks, New York Times reported. 

Zhao Lijian, deputy director-general of the Chinese Foreign Ministry’s information department, accused the U.S. of lacking transparency about its earliest coronavirus cases. He tweeted on March 12, “When did patient zero begin in US? How many people are infected? What are the names of the hospitals? It might be US army who brought the epidemic to Wuhan. Be transparent! Make public your data! US owe us an explanation!”

Twitter is blocked in China but Zhao made good use of the platform, New York Times reported. The Times did not describe Zhao’s words as a conspiracy theory, but as an “aggressive and hawkish diplomatic strategy.”

In the U.S., officials have called the epidemic the “Wuhan virus,” and at least one senator hinted that the epidemic began with the leak of a Chinese biological weapon.

It wouldn’t be the first time a deadly virus escaped from a Chinese lab.

The SARS virus escaped from a high-containment Beijing research lab at least three times, causing an outbreak in China, the New Scientist and other media reported in 2004. A grad student who worked for two weeks at the Institute of Virology of the Chinese Center for Disease Control in Beijing developed SARS and a postdoctoral student in the same lab became ill weeks later.

Chinese ruler Xi said he wants any independent investigation to be based on science, “led by WHO and conducted in an objective and impartial manner.” This shows he is “playing the long game, providing China’s government multiple ways of avoiding any potential future fallout from a coronavirus investigation,” CNN reported.

Critics of WHO — Donald Trump — already think WHO officials are too close to China. Trump, who has basically declared war on science, has threatened to permanently end funding to the World Health Organization and pull the U.S. out of the international body. He blasted its coronavirus response in a letter and accused its head of “political gamesmanship,” Politico reported.

Politicians in the U.S. and elsewhere are criticizing China for not sharing information about the outbreak sooner, and Trump and his allies often attack China when the media questions them about Trump’s coronavirus response.

China may be able to influence who gets to sit on the team of an independent investigation, nominating those likely to be sympathetic or pressuring allies to do so, according to CNN. China has pledged $2 billion over two years to the WHO — a political debt it may be able to collect on in future.

There are already signs that China stifled origins research by its own scientists, Science reported. This helped fuel theories that the virus accidentally leaked from a lab there.

WHO is not involved in studies in China, spokesperson Tarik Jasarevic told ScienceInsider, but it “would be keen to work with international partners and at the invitation of the Chinese government to participate in investigation around the animal origins” of the virus.

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“It is our understanding that a number of investigations to better understand the source of the outbreak in China are currently underway or planned,” the WHO spokesperson added, “including investigations of human cases with symptom onset in and around Wuhan in late 2019, environmental sampling from markets and farms in areas where the first human cases were identified, and detailed records on the source and type of wildlife species and farmed animals sold in these markets.”

The Chinese government has said it has launched its own investigation into the origins and early response to the pandemic. Few details have been made public. China has responded angrily to the idea that it is responsible for allowing the outbreak to spread around the world.

Government-sponsored media have sau=id there’s no basis for such claims.

“Multiple press reports have also provided evidence that China has promoted disinformation campaigns suggesting the virus originated in other places, such as the U.S.,” Science Magazine reported.