The Chinese state newspaper Global Times cited “Chinese military experts” on Thursday urging Beijing to join hands with the government of Russia and demand an international probe into American biological laboratories, an effort to fuel the Communist Party conspiracy theory that the U.S. Army caused the Chinese coronavirus pandemic.
The article suggested the use of international agencies like the United Nations Security Council to pressure America into giving inspectors approved by the Chinese Communist Party access to sensitive scientific sites. It is the first major proposition in English-language Chinese government media to implement measures to prove the theory the Chinese Foreign Ministry has spent months cultivating that a U.S. Army laboratory in Fort Detrick, Maryland, is the true origin of the Chinese coronavirus.
The article does not specifically link demands to allow Russian and Chinese inspections of American military facilities to the coronavirus pandemic, but appears to be a response to calls from Washington for an impartial investigation into the activity at the Wuhan Institute of Virology, a top biological research facility believed to be engaged in coronavirus research at the time the outbreak began.
“In order to hide the fact that the U.S. is researching on biological weapons, the U.S. will not respond to an international query on its bio-labs, Chinese military experts said, adding that China and Russia could initiate an investigation of bio-labs worldwide at the UN to pressure the US,” the Global Times claimed on Thursday.
The newspaper cited “Chinese analysts,” state-approved voices to echo the Communist Party agenda, who claimed, “China and Russia can initiate an international investigation of all P3 and P4 labs worldwide, including the ones run by the U.S., at the U.N. Security Council, and U.S. antiwar groups and media can also pressure Washington to be transparent on the question of its bio-labs.”
One such “expert,” identified as an official at Beijing’s Renmin University, claimed that demands from China and Russia for access to American weapons research were “reasonable” and “totally different from the groundless accusations and conspiracy theories about the origin of COVID-19 [Chinese coronavirus disease] made by some U.S. congressmen and politicians.”
The Global Times also claimed “observers” believe that a joint Chinese-Russian effort to investigate the American military “will embarrass Washington,” as it would attract global support. The propaganda newspaper did not corroborate why the “observers” believe so.
One anonymous Chinese “military expert” added that investigating the U.S. military is important because of the use of “chemical and biological weapons since the Cold War.”
The Chinese Foreign Ministry did not discuss the issue during its daily press briefing on Friday. The briefing, however, was led by spokesman Zhao Lijian, the first senior Chinese Communist Party official to float the conspiracy theory that the coronavirus originated in America. Beijing has elevated Zhao’s profile since he speculated on Twitter in March, “it might be the U.S. Army who brought the epidemic to Wuhan.”
Shortly after Zhao’s tweet, the Global Times identified the Maryland Army facility, which is reportedly no longer open, as the possible origin of the virus.
The Chinese coronavirus pandemic originated in Wuhan, central China. The first documented cases of infection by this particular coronavirus in history were confirmed in Wuhan in November 2019, according to leaked Chinese government documents. There is no evidence of any presence of Chinese coronavirus in Maryland until months later, when travel from China and Europe, which experienced an earlier outbreak than America due to its commercial ties with China, created an epidemic in the United States.
In response to the lack of evidence of any coronavirus cases in the United States until months after the outbreak occurred in Wuhan, the Chinese Foreign Ministry has attempted to attribute an illness triggered by e-cigarette use, or vaping, to the Chinese coronavirus – yet none of the vaping illness cases were found to be contagious.
“The safety of biolabs in the US now poses the biggest risk to the U.S. regulatory authority,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said at a briefing last week. “There are also reports that soon after the closure [of the Fort Detrick laboratory], ‘E-cigarette disease’ broke out in the surroundings.”
Hua was referring to a condition the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has dubbed “EVALI,” a respiratory illness that doctors have identified in people who have used vapes. There is no evidence that any patient diagnosed with EVALI has infected another person with the same disease – unlike the Chinese coronavirus, which is highly contagious and believed to spread through air droplets. Doctors do not quarantine EVALI patients. Hua did not note the suspected connection between EVALI and counterfeit e-cigarette products manufactured in China.
Beijing officials began to accuse America of causing the pandemic after suspicions arose that the Wuhan Institute of Virology, a top bioweapons lab in the outbreak’s origin city, may have played a role in the outbreak. The Wuhan laboratory is believed to have been studying highly contagious coronaviruses at the time that cases of viral respiratory infections began appearing in Wuhan hospitals.
Chinese officials initially claimed the outbreak originated at a Wuhan “wet market,” an open-air area where anyone can sell animal carcasses for consumption. The Communist Party then denied that this was the case and began accusing Washington of playing a role.
The Global Times appears to have included Russia in its call for a probe into the unsubstantiated Maryland conspiracy theory in response to that government’s officials discouraging any investigation into China and offering Beijing support. The propaganda outlet noted that Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov attacked Washington this week for opposing a Russian- and Chinese-led effort to inspect and approve of American military development. Moscow has particularly objected to American military facilities in nearby post-Soviet states.
“For almost 20 years, Russia and most other countries, including China, have been calling for a protocol on the convention that would establish a mechanism to verify and check states’ commitment not to create biological weapons. The U.S. stands almost alone against this initiative,” the Global Times quoted Lavrov as saying.
Lavrov objected to calls for sanctions on China in remarks Friday.
“There is the need to find the specific causes of the emergence of this virus and understand why the process of its person-to-person transmission has begun and so on,” Lavrov said, according to the Russian news agency TASS, arguing that antagonizing China would hurt this effort. “Eventually, this will be important for developing an antidote and will help secure ourselves against this threat, instead of talking that the virus emerged on a marketplace in China and that is why it is necessary to impose sanctions against that country.”
Follow Frances Martel on Facebook and Twitter.