President Biden's decision to give intelligence agencies 90 days to determine the origins of the coronavirus, along with last night's revelation that US intelligence agencies have been sitting on a massive pile of evidence suggesting that SARS-CoV-2 leaked from the Wuhan Institute of Virology, has prompted the CCP to fire up its propaganda machine.
In comments made Thursday, a top spokesman for China's Foreign Ministry revived one of the CCP's favorite false narratives from the early days of the outbreak: the notion that the virus was created in the US (not China), and was purposefully deployed by the American military to undermine Chinese society.
Speaking on Thursday, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian asked the White House to reflect on its own role in the pandemic and not "dump" responsibility on Beijing. He also demanded that Washington provide "an explanation" for a respiratory disease outbreak in northern Virginia, along with the outbreak of the "vaping disease", which occurred shortly before the pandemic began, and has been used in Chinese media to spread uncertainty about the virus's origins.
Citing the 33 million COVID-19 cases in the US and 600K deaths, Zhao asked "How safe is your conscience?"
But mostly, the comments focused on the "unexplained" disease in northern Virginia, and an unsubstantiated claim about a biolab at Maryland's Fort Detrick, which has become a hot topic on China's twitter-like Weibo. The wild claims are based on startling little evidence: the CDC issued a "cease and desist" order to halt operations at the lab over safety concerns. But that hasn't stopped speculation (bolstered by government agents) from festering that the lab might have had something to do with the outbreak.
"I also want to emphasize that the Fort Detrick base is full of suspicions. There are more than 200 biological laboratories in the United States spreading around the world. How many secrets are there?"
Zhao’s comment comes after US President Joe Biden said on Wednesday that he was giving intelligence agencies 90 days to pinpoint the origins of Covid-19. Biden said his administration would continue to push China to “participate in a full, transparent, evidence-based international investigation and to provide access to all relevant data and evidence.”
Reinforcing a statement from the Chinese Embassy in Washington, DC on Wednesday evening, Zhao called on the US to stop “ignoring facts and science” and refrain from “repeatedly clamoring to reinvestigate China.”
While there's no evidence to substantiate any of these theories, a report by WHO scientists that claimed the "lab leak" theory was possible but unlikely has been discredited in recent weeks, with the WHO promising to undertake another investigation of the virus's origins.
Fortunately for Beijing, the CCP doesn't need to rely solely on its official spokespeople to spread misleading narratives. Because just this week, a NYT reporter who has been tasked with covering the COVID-19 pandemic tweeted that it was "racist" to even talk about the Wuhan lab leak theory, despite the mounting evidence.
“Someday we will stop talking about the lab leak theory and maybe even admit its racist roots. But alas, that day is not yet here,” tweeted Mandavilli.
She faced immediate pushback and subsequently deleted the tweet, including the following comments from Glenn Greenwald: "Oh my god: I didn’t realize what her job is," remarked investigative journalist Glenn Greenwald. "Can someone explain to me why it’s racist to wonder if a virus escaped from a Chinese lab, but it’s not racist to insist that it infected humans because of Chinese wet markets? If anything, isn’t the latter more racist?" he asked.
The CCP, on the other hand, is probably happy to signal-boost anyone accusing skeptics of being racist. Since they would prefer that the world just stop talking about the virus's origins so we can move on from any talk of accountability for the government that allowed the worst pandemic in a century to escape its borders despite early warnings from scientists and doctors who were, in most cases, punished or silenced.