Dismissing Covid investigation, China peddles conspiracy theories blaming US

When a conspiracy theory began to circulate in China suggesting that the coronavirus had escaped from a US military laboratory, it had l...


When a conspiracy theory began to circulate in China suggesting that the coronavirus had escaped from a US military laboratory, it had largely remained on the sidelines. Now the ruling Communist Party has propelled the idea firmly into the mainstream.

This week, a spokesperson for the Chinese Foreign Ministry has repeatedly used an official podium to raise unproven ideas that the coronavirus may have first leaked from a research facility in Fort Detrick, in the Maryland. A Communist Party publication, the Global Times, launched an online petition in July calling for the lab to be investigated and said it has collected more than 25 million signatures.

Officials and state media promoted a rap song by a patriotic Chinese hip-hop group that boasted the same claim, with the lyrics, “How many plots have come out of your labs?” How many corpses hanging on a tag? “

Beijing is peddling baseless theories that the United States may be the true source of the coronavirus, as it pushes back efforts to investigate the origins of the pandemic in China. The disinformation campaign began last year, but Beijing has ramped up the volume in recent weeks, reflecting concerns about being blamed for the pandemic that has killed millions around the world.

These theories, promoted by officials, academics, central propaganda outlets and on social media, have gained popularity in China. They risk further blurring the investigations into the source of the virus and worsening the already frayed relationship between the world’s two greatest powers at a time when cooperation is desperately needed.

“This not only contributes to the deterioration of US-China relations, but also makes it even less likely that the two countries will work together to tackle a common challenge,” said Yanzhong Huang, director of the Center for Global Health Studies at Seton Hall. University. “We haven’t seen any bilateral cooperation on vaccines, tracing the trajectory of the virus or mutations, that sort of thing.”

Understanding the origin of the virus could help scientists prevent another pandemic. Virologists still lean widely towards the theory that the virus has passed from infected animals to humans outside of a lab, but calls are growing to also investigate the possibility that the virus escaped from lab to lab. Wuhan, the city at the center of the epidemic.

China has rejected the Wuhan lab leak hypothesis as an unfounded conspiracy theory. He also criticized the United States’ response to the pandemic while highlighting its own success in bringing a recent outbreak of the highly transmissible Delta variant under control, with only a handful of new cases reported this week.

Wary of independent scrutiny, Beijing has Tightly controlled efforts by the World Health Organization to investigate the origin of the outbreak, and she rejected the health agency’s recent call for a second phase of an investigation that would take a closer look at the theory of the laboratory.

China has stepped up its disinformation campaign ahead of the results of an investigation by US intelligence agencies ordered by President Biden. The agencies submitted their report on the origin of the pandemic to the president on Tuesday, but have not yet concluded whether the virus emerged naturally or was the result of an accidental leak from a lab.

“The point is to really saturate the airwaves with all of this, which most average Chinese won’t be able to see behind,” said Dali Yang, professor of political science at the University of Chicago. “Much of it anticipates and tries to preemptively push back this potential US study by the intelligence community.”

The Chinese government has argued that Beijing has done its part in researching the origin of the pandemic by facilitating a WHO expert visit earlier this year, and that scientists should now look to others. countries, including the United States. Beijing accuses those calling for a laboratory investigation in China of trying to undermine the country’s image at home and abroad.

Wang Wenbin, spokesperson for China’s Foreign Ministry, this week used routine press briefings to spread baseless speculation that the virus emerged in the United States before the first cases were reported in China. He cited a July 2019 outbreak of lung disease in Wisconsin that U.S. health officials have already connected to vaping, not Covid. On Wednesday, he said the WHO should investigate laboratories in Fort Detrick and elsewhere in the United States that are testing for coronaviruses.

“The United States has accused China of being opaque on the issue of tracing the origins of the virus and of falsely accusing China of using false propaganda,” Wang said on Tuesday. “Yet he made excuses, carefully concealed secrets, passively avoided problems, and constantly raised obstacles. “

In a report released this month, several Chinese policy research institutes accused the United States of “manipulating world public opinion by practicing” original research terrorism. ” Fort Detrick.

One of the report’s authors, Wang Wen, a professor at the Chongyang Institute for Financial Studies at Renmin University, said the unsubstantiated suggestions that the coronavirus was created in a laboratory were a form of terrorism because they caused “unnecessary horror to society.”

He defended the report’s claims about the Fort Detrick lab, saying, in essence, that it was the United States that started it.

“It was the American politicians who first said it and developed this,” Wang said. “China could have been cooperative in the beginning, but after facing such libel, it must also raise reasonable questions in the United States.”

The report argued that the pandemic may have started in the United States, indicating the closure of a laboratory at Fort Detrick on security issues in August 2019 and the deaths in a nursing home in Virginia in July 2019 as suspects.

Never mind that such claims have been widely rejected by scientists. (“I don’t think there is any validity to these accusations,” said Professor Huang of Seton Hall University.) They have played an important role in China. This month, the state broadcaster aired several segments on what it called the “dark history” of Fort Detrick. People’s Daily recently aired a 16-part series on US failures in controlling the coronavirus, with repeated questions about the Fort Detrick plot.

“Why didn’t the United States invite the WHO to visit Fort Detrick?” The newspaper wrote in an Aug. 6 comment. “On the issue of traceability, if you can come to China, why can’t you go to the United States?

Efforts to focus on American wrongdoing have sometimes backfired. After Chinese state media quoted a Swiss biologist as warning that the WHO effort to examine the origins of the pandemic would become a tool of the United States, the Swiss embassy in China said the ‘expert appeared to be fictitious.

“If you exist, we would love to meet you! the Swiss embassy tweeted. “But this is more likely to be fake news, and we call on the Chinese press and internet users to remove the posts.”

Yet coronavirus plots have been largely recirculated on social media.

On Weibo, a popular social media platform in China, hashtags like “US Must Respond” and “Demystify Fort Detrick’s Astonishing Internal History” have been viewed more than 100 million times.

Jenny Zhang, a 21-year-old student in the eastern city of Nanjing, said she signed the Global Times petition for an investigation in Fort Detrick after reading several Chinese media reports suggesting the epidemic started much earlier in the years. United States.

“This is about the safety of all mankind,” Ms. Zhang said. “If it turns out that the virus is not from China, I think it would change the perspective of others on China.”



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Newsrust - US Top News: Dismissing Covid investigation, China peddles conspiracy theories blaming US
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