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US officials seek politics in virus probe

By Tom Fowdy | China Daily | Updated: 2021-02-26 07:06
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JIN DING/CHINA DAILY

Some United States officials continue to politicize the COVID-19 pandemic. On Sunday, for instance, National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan said: "We need a credible, open, transparent international investigation led by the World Health Organization...We do not believe that China has made available sufficient original data into how this pandemic began to spread, both in China and then eventually around the world."

Sullivan continues to reject claims by scientists from about 10 countries that there is no evidence to suggest the novel coronavirus originated in China.
That some US officials are using COVID-19 as a political tool to bash China is disingenuous, unscientific and tedious. Some US politicians have made it clear they will not accept any outcome or finding other than that which places maximum culpability and responsibility on Beijing, and therefore dismiss anything that fails to do so as simply lacking transparency.

Nobody knew anything about the novel coronavirus when it emerged, yet the underlying charge is that China's early approach to the virus must have been resolutely omniscient, with anything short of such being deemed "guilty" in terms of a cover-up. Here the narrative again supersedes fact.

Why does the origin and circumstances of a disease have to be pinned on a given country, territory or political system? Viruses are part of our world. They do not respect or discriminate between national boundaries or political systems, and their microscopic size means we cannot deal with (or understand) them like we do with things easily visible.

It is a fallacy to conceive the origin and transmission of the novel coronavirus can be simplified in terms of political preferences, yet that is precisely what is happening, in a disingenuous and opportunistic way.

This ought to serve as a warning to the political motivations at hand, which are inherently closed-minded and unscientific. When China is stigmatized as the place of origin of the virus, the implication is that the authorities in the country, particularly in Wuhan, knew everything about the virus but "hid it from the world". Which is ridiculous.

COVID-19 is a disease we are learning about even today. It is a new virus discovered in 2020. When it was identified, few knew how dangerous it was or that it primarily spreads asymptotically, which explains why the WHO could not be certain about human-to-human transmission (not because there was a cover-up), and in turn this is why it is so difficult to conceive just who and where "patient zero" was or how the disease crossed from one species to another.

Scientists and doctors in the West, too, did not understand the new virus or what was needed to stop it from spreading. Yet none of this seems to matter, as some Western politicians continue to spite China, ignoring scientific reports about cases and possible infections in the US and Western Europe earlier than in Wuhan.

Science is about seeking the truth and establishing new knowledge, sometimes by replacing existing theories. No serious scientist will refuse to accept or incorporate new information simply because it contravenes his pre-established or preconceived notion.

But the research into the emergence of the virus is not being treated as a scientific inquiry. It is being used as a political football. Thus, the results the US and other Western officials want aren't scientific, because science cannot feasibly blame a country. The results they want are political. They do not seek clarity, they seek blame.

When Western politicians call for an independent investigation, they are well aware that the results of such investigations are likely to be no different and thus will not fit into their narrative. The reason they still seek such investigations is to continue putting the "responsibility" for the pandemic upon China. They are not seeking "new information", because that would not serve their political design or grand narrative.

The world must understand that for some Western politicians and mainstream media outlets, research into COVID-19 is not a quest to seek the truth but to appropriate political blame onto China in the pursuit of geopolitics.

The author is a British political and international relations analyst. The views do not necessarily reflect those of China Daily.

The opinions expressed here are those of the writer and do not necessarily represent the views of China Daily and China Daily website.

If you have a specific expertise and would like to contribute to China Daily, please contact us at opinion@chinadaily.com.cn, and comment@chinadaily.com.cn.

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