Coronavirus News Asia

Bio-warfare narratives may chill pandemic cooperation


After a temporary détente between the US and China to put aside the blame game and cooperate to fight Covid-19, it seems conspiracy theories are once again flaring up and sabotaging joint efforts to control the pandemic.

On Monday a Washington Post article cited State Department cables insinuating that the virus may have escaped from a Wuhan virology lab, which was promoted the next day by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Fox News and again on Thursday by President Donald Trump during the daily coronavirus briefing.

As this escalates, and just as Washington and Beijing are flattening the curve to cautiously consider reopening their economies, the sudden promotion of bio-warfare narratives may throw both countries back into chaos, and halt much-needed knowledge exchange and cooperation in the midst of a pandemic.

Yet with such high-level officials on both sides promoting these theories, one wonders if they may have some credence.

Narrative of Chinese bio-warfare

It seems there are historical reasons that provide grounds for these fringe theories.

From Washington’s perspective, the conspiracy began from a January 26 Washington Times article that the virus’ outbreak could be linked to the Wuhan Institute of Virology. It cited Israeli intelligence officer Dany Shoham for this claim, which was later picked up by other sites and promoted by US government officials such as Senator Tom Cotton and some members of the Committee on the Present Danger: China.

It is the sort of tale that resonates with China hawks in Washington, and the escape of deadly pathogens from research labs is not without precedent. 

For example, while there is no evidence in open-source information that the 2003 SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome) epidemic was caused by leaks from labs, the 2004 SARS cases were indeed caused by leaks from a Beijing laboratory.





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