As Beijing struggles to suppress China's most broad-based COVID outbreak since the original wave that swept the globe in late 2019-early 2020, the CCP's ministry of propaganda is ramping up efforts to spread a conspiracy theory blaming COVID on the US military, CNN reports.
As we have previously reported, the conspiracy theory alleges that the virus originated at a military lab at Fort Detrick in Maryland. While that might seem outlandish to most Americans, plenty of Chinese citizens are taking the reports at face value. In fact, the reports have elicited enough of an impassioned response from Chinese citizens that half a million of them signed a letter to the WHO demanding an investigation into Fort Detrick.
During a news conference, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian called for WHO to investigate both the Fort Detrick lab and a laboratory at the University of North Carolina led by US coronavirus expert Ralph Baric.
Spotting the tactics at play here isn't difficult. Beijing is trying to turn the push for another probe into the virus's potential origins inside the Wuhan Institute of Virology on its head, creating an inverted counter-narrative that accuses the aggressive Trump Administration of trying to tarnish China's global reputation via biological skullduggery.
And as with any effective conspiracy theory, it also contains a kernel of truth. Sen. Rand Paul has drawn attention to the NIH's involvement in financing 'gain of function' research at the WIV.
Still, top Chinese officials are slamming the WHO for even daring to suggest another investigation (which, by the way, looks unlikely to happen, not that it would matter, since the WIV has likely been thoroughly cleaned since the outbreak started almost 2 years ago). They've accused the agency, once criticized for blatantly kowtowing to Beijing during the opening months of the crisis, of "disregarding common sense and defying science."
Chinese propagandists have also latched on to another baseless theory originating in an obscure Italian tabloid, which also accuses the US military of spreading the coronavirus to Italy through a blood donation program: "Damning evidence! The coronavirus entered Europe from Fort Detrick via a US army blood donation program," screamed the headline of a widely read story published by the Communist Youth League, the youth branch of the CCP.
Ironically (considering the backlash in the US over President Trump calling COVID "the China virus") some in China have taken to calling COVID "the US virus".
Recent reports claim US intelligence has increasingly come around to the theory that the virus originated at the WIV and escaped via a leak.
Meanwhile, Chinese health authorities reported a growing number of new cases on Friday. Officials counted 124 confirmed new coronavirus cases for Aug. 5, the highest daily count in the current outbreak, fueled by a spike in locally transmitted infections. Authorities have imposed travel restrictions, imposed mandatory testing for millions, and even locked down some residential compounds. Beijing, meanwhile, continues to blame the latest delta-driven outbreak on foreigners, claiming it originated with the crew of a flight into Nanjing from Russia. New cases have repeatedly been blamed on travelers or foreigners, even as China maintains tight restrictions on foreigners entering the country.