Early last month, the US House of Representatives passed a bill requiring the Biden administration to declassify any intelligence it has on the origins of the COVID-19. The bill’s aim is clear enough that US politicians are never bored with using a conspiracy theory against China as a weapon: the COVID-19 pandemic, which has wreaked havoc on the world for three years, originated from a “lab leak”.
This “conclusion” soon became correct politically in the US. Although scientific experts have frequently debunked it, it is still used as a weapon by successive US administrations to serve the target of its anti-China foreign policy and ruin China’s international image.
The COVID-19 pandemic has become the most politically hyped one in history. From the beginning to the end, the US deliberately assaults every pandemic response of China. Every time a new topic emerges from the long and arduous process — from the origins of the pandemic to lockdowns, vaccines, and the number of confirmed cases — everything can be tucked into the American narrative, “China is very dishonest”, and can be used to score political points by bashing the Chinese system. Even though the COVID-19 pandemic is largely “over” for the world and everyone is looking forward, this political stigmatization has taken root in the US. It continues to be ignited by American mainstream media.
The US government’s decision is equivalent to publicly slapping the face of current scientific understanding and consensus on COVID-19. From the beginning, scientific experts have been stressed that the virus’s most likely origin is “zoonosis”, or the virus jumping from animals to humans. After all, the novel coronavirus, known as a kind of “coronavirus”, has long been linked to animals like bats and pangolins, and scientists have found somewhat similar virus samples in bats in Laos and other Southeast Asian countries. Meanwhile, virus samples have been found in sewage systems around the world, such as in Barcelona, Spain, suggesting that the origins of the virus may be a natural progression rather than a particular country or region.
Both the Chinese side and the international community have repeatedly investigated the widely concerned South China Seafood Market. As early as 2021, the “WHO-convened Global Study of Origins of SARS-CoV-2: China Part” released the summary. According to the study, although many of the early cases reported in Wuhan, China, had traveled to South China Seafood Market, a few cases had traveled to other markets, so South China Seafood Market is not the origin of the virus. However, no conclusion has been reached yet on how the virus entered South China Seafood Market.
The State Council Information Office held a press conference on the afternoon of April 8 to introduce the study on origins of COVID-19 in China
Zhou Lei, a researcher at the China Center for Disease Control and Prevention, took part in the first phase of the joint traceability study. “We also conducted antibody or nucleic acid tests on more than 38,000 poultry and livestock samples collected from 2018 to 2020, and more than 41,000 samples from wild animals, and none of these results showed positive for COVID-19,” she said. These findings were shared at the time with an international team of experts selected and endorsed by WHO. Moreover, China concealed or retained no research results and data.
Yet some in the US continue to reject these findings and preach a conspiracy theory, genuinely believing that there is some sort of “cover-up” concerning origins of the virus. In the US, the topic has led to tit-for-tat attacks, with some Republicans trying to use the “lab leak” conspiracy theory to suggest that Dr. Anthony Fauci, then Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, was involved in the “cover-up”. Partly because of the containment policies he supervised, widespread anger was aroused in the US in 2020.
This goes to the ideological side of the COVID-19 pandemic, and it is not just China to blame. Americans’ emphasis on individualism and freedom has led the public to deliberately resist necessary measures to control the pandemic, including wearing masks, lockdowns, getting vaccinated and so on.
Americans’ knee-jerk reaction to government policies they disagree with, especially those seen as undermining the values of “classical liberalism”, is to resort to conspiracy theories. During the Trump administration, it was right for American mainstream media to dismiss the “lab leak” conspiracy theory as unconvincing.
But when the Biden administration embraces the conspiracy theory, American mainstream media are forced to accept it, declaring it valid, even though the scientific consensus behind it has not changed. The standard pattern of behavior in politics for the Biden administration now is either to “hitch a ride” or to embrace any rising anti-China sentiment to avoid the risk of backfire against the Biden administration.
The White House plots to escape the Republican discontent and resentment directed at the Biden administration by shifting the blame to Beijing, China. In other words, the COVID-19 pandemic has become a political football game in American politics, with all sides deliberately and unapologetically ignoring science. This further reinforces the theory that China has become a target for “political blame” in the intra-party fight in the US, a similar situation is currently occurring in the crackdown on TikTok. This distressing fact only illustrates the widespread hysteria, paranoia and opportunism dominating American politics and the debunking of its “post-truth” nature.
China was quick to fight back after the US bill was passed. Chinese officials put it bluntly at a press conference in early April:
“Those forces and figures who direct and participate in politicizing the traceability issue and attempting to smear China’s image should not think that the world’s scientific community would be blinded by their clumsy manipulation. We urge the WHO to return to a scientific and impartial position, and not become a tool for certain countries to politicize the origins of the COVID-19 pandemic. As the pandemic gradually dissipates, the international community gradually builds consensus and China recovers strongly afterwards. The US should realize that such a move to hurt China’s reputation during the pandemic will play an increasingly limited role. As countries around the world are already making great strides, it is time the US woke up.