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US needs to stop politicizing origin tracing

By Bradley Blankenship | | Updated: 2021-07-27 08:59
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Luo Jie /  China Daily

The World Health Organization recently announced a proposal to launch a second phase study into the origin of the novel coronavirus (SARS-CoV2) in China, including all the laboratories and markets in China, despite the fact an initial study found the so-called "lab leak" hypothesis to be "extremely unlikely."

In response, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian reaffirmed China's position any move to continue the probe "should be reached by all members through consultation."

"The Chinese side noted the draft plan made by Tedros and the secretariat and the Chinese side is looking into it," Zhao said. "Origin-tracing is a scientific matter. All parties should respect the opinion of the scientists and refrain from politicizing origin-tracing."

Unfortunately, the second phase study proposed by the WHO clearly came about after intense political pressure emanating from a handful of developed countries, led by the US, that are also among the WHO's top contributors.

That's why it's unlikely China will permit a second phase SARS-CoV2 origins study if it is only an elaborate political stunt. As Zhao also noted, China has serious concern "certain countries" (the United States and its allies) would politicize any investigation into the origins of SARS-CoV2.

Those concerns are valid, because that politicization has already happened. Former US President Donald Trump and his top officials made the rounds pushing the same "lab leak" hypothesis that originated on white supremacist internet forums, and was so highly discredited major Western social media companies initially censored its discussion. It was even initially dismissed in major American media outlets.

It was obvious at the time that the Trump administration was trying to peddle this far-right conspiracy in order to hide its own failure at containing the virus, which at that time was spreading uncontrollably and the administration had neither the competence nor will to try and tackle.

In fact, emails from Donald Trump's former science adviser, Paul Alexander, obtained by Politico prove beyond any doubt the administration actually wanted Americans to get infected in order to establish "herd immunity". This laissez-faire approach to basic governance would later lead to the preventable deaths of over 610,000 Americans, by far the highest official death toll in the world and probably much higher in reality.

Rather than try to manage this growing public health catastrophe, Trump blamed China for his own failings in order to help his failed re-election bid in 2020. Even then it didn't work – and the media was right to dismiss such an absurd theory.

However, things have taken a complete 180 since the "lab leak" hypothesis is no longer censored on major social media platforms. Major news media outlets are blasting it across all corners, and President Joe Biden even ordered US intelligence agencies to investigate it themselves.

These are, of course, the same intelligence agencies that falsely claimed there were weapons of mass destruction in Iraq and lied to the American public about the existence of an NSA mass surveillance program.

The US' recklessness and disregard for objective facts has led to the death and displacement of countless innocent people, as well as spurred distrust at home. China thus has every right to not comply with an investigation on terms pushed by the US and its allies, since it could threaten China's national security. Plus, as mentioned before, there was already a study into the origins of the novel coronavirus in China earlier this year.

International experts from the WHO and China already issued a report that ruled out the "lab leak" hypothesis and gave clear recommendations for the next phase of the origins of study, including researching early cases globally and looking into cold chains and frozen foods in the transmission of the virus. The results of this report must be upheld and built on – not dismissed out of hand simply because the results didn't fit the narrative some developed countries are pushing.

At the same time, the world does deserve clear answers on the origins of SARS-CoV2, and that's precisely why the WHO must follow the recommendations of the broader international community – not just a few developed countries.

For example, permanent representatives from 48 countries to the United Nations at Geneva addressed Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus last week, calling on the WHO to launch a global study of the origins of the novel coronavirus and voicing opposition to the politicization of origin-tracing.

The US needs to stop politicizing science to cover up its own failings in containing the novel coronavirus, and also needs to open up its doors for an investigation since studies confirm cases appeared there earlier than previously known. Without transparency from Washington, any origin-tracing study would be meaningless.

Bradley Blankenship is a Prague-based American journalist, political analyst and freelance reporter.

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

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