Clearly, Beijing hasn't been thrilled about the recent acknowledgment of the credibility of what's known as the "lab leak" theory: the idea that the international COVID-19 pandemic that has killed more than 3.5MM people around the world (with millions more likely uncounted) was the result of a leak from the Wuhan Institute of Virology, a lab in Wuhan that was conclusively working with coronaviruses.
Social media giants that once aggressively enforced censorship of the topic as a "conspiracy theory" (Zero Hedge was briefly banned from Twitter for our coverage of the allegations) have been forced to backpedal now that Dr. Anthony Fauci himself has confirmed publicly that the virus may not have infected humans by jumping from animals, a route known as "zoonotic" transition, and which still has not been conclusively tracked to a culprit animal (scientists believe the virus originated in bats, but passed to humans via another species of animal, perhaps a pangolin).
Sen. Tom Cotton, an early proponent of the lab leak theory, has insisted that Dr. Fauci knows more than he's letting on. A WHO study published earlier this year declared that the theory was "low probability", but that initial report has been subjected to a torrent of criticism.
And as we wait to see how President Biden will react - whether his administration will demand a probe of the lab leak theory, or not (he's already asked intelligence agencies to redouble their efforts) - Beijing is already warning that it would interpret such an investigation as an overtly hostile act. In a statement released by China's embassy in Washington, Beijing declared that politicizing the origins of the pandemic would hamper further investigations and undermine global efforts to curb the pandemic.
The embassy in Washington said in a statement on its website on Wednesday evening "some political forces have been fixated on political manipulation and (the) blame game".
On Wednesday, Biden said US intelligence agencies were "conflicted" about whether COVID "emerged from human contact with an infected animal or from a laboratory accident."
President Biden asked America's intelligence community to ‘redouble’ efforts to determine the origins of COVID-19, saying that the U.S. agencies are pursuing rival theories potentially including the possibility of a laboratory accident in China https://t.co/SZDJhTrSYU pic.twitter.com/d5pNOBVEe7— Reuters (@Reuters) May 27, 2021
As the WHO prepares to begin its own second phase of investigations, China has been under pressure to give investigators more access amid allegations that SARS-CoV-2 leaked from a laboratory specializing in coronavirus research in the city of Wuhan.
China has repeatedly denied that a lab leak was the source of the outbreak, though Beijing has been suspiciously tight-lipped when it comes to sharing information about the origins of the outbreak. Recent reports about infections traced back to weeks before the outbreak have prompted another round of skepticism after Beijing was accused of stonewalling a WHO investigation. The Global Times published a story on Wednesday declaring that if the "lab leak theory" is to be further investigated, the US should also allow investigators into its own facilities, including the lab at Fort Detrick.
What's more, GT editor Hu Xijin ridiculed Biden's response in a tweet.
WHO scientists have ruled out possibility of Wuhan lab leak theory, so President Biden asks intelligence community to take up the task. What a blockbuster suspense movie. But its ending should be in the Fort Detrick biolab as that’s typical Hollywood style. pic.twitter.com/Q2VnYQbp9a— Hu Xijin 胡锡进 (@HuXijin_GT) May 26, 2021
Reuters quoted several critics of China's response. Yanzhong Huang, senior fellow for global health with the Council on Foreign Relations in Washington, said China's lack of openness was only further stoking suspicions in the theory. "There's nothing really new there to prove the hypothesis," he said. "In the investigation of the origins of the pandemic it is really important to have transparency in order to build trust in the investigation results."
"Very clearly they are trying to internationalise their way out of the jam they are in," said Jamie Metzl, senior fellow at the Atlantic Council think tank, who has been campaigning for a new independent investigation.
Circling back, the first source said that without further cooperation from China, any further investigation likely wouldn't yield much of a result. "Ideally you want China to be more cooperative and more transparent," Huang said. Unfortunately, it looks like the issue has already been politicized, thanks to Beijing. "But now the issue has become so politicized, with the stakes of the investigation so high."