China Accuses U.S. Army Lab of Manufacturing the Coronavirus

A staff member of the health authorities of the southern federal state of Baden-Wuerttemberg demonstrates on a negative sample the test for the coronavirus SARS-CoV-2, in a laboratory in Stuttgart, southern Germany, on March 2, 2020. - The death toll from the new coronavirus epidemic surpassed 3,000 on Monday, March …
THOMAS KIENZLE/AFP via Getty Images

The Chinese Communist Party continued its weird and sinister propaganda campaign to shift blame for the coronavirus to the United States with an editorial in the state-run Global Times on Sunday that suggested a U.S. army research laboratory created the disease.

The U.S. government lodged “stern representations” with the Chinese embassy over the antics of foreign ministry spokesman Lijan Zhao, the loudest and highest-ranking pusher of conspiracy theories about American origins for the Wuhan virus.

The Global Times on Sunday peddled a conspiracy theory that reversed the dark suspicions that have long swirled around the infectious disease laboratory located near Wuhan, which some suspect (without any evidence to date) might have either accidentally or deliberately released the virus, as either medical research gone wrong or a deliberately tailored bio-weapon.

The latest mutation of Chinese propaganda merely flips those theories around and applies them to a U.S. Army facility in Fort Detrick, Maryland:

The Fort Detrick laboratory that handles high-level disease-causing material, such as Ebola, in Fredrick, Maryland was shut after the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued a cease and desist order to the organization in July, 2019 according to local media.

The suspension was due to multiple causes, including failure to follow local procedures and a lack of periodic recertification training for workers in the biocontainment laboratories. The wastewater decontamination system of the lab also failed to meet standards set by the Federal Select Agent Program, media reported.

The lab, which was closed more than half a year ago, recently caught public attention as a petition submitted to the White House website on March 10 listed some coincidences in time between the closure and the COVID-19 outbreak. 

For example, “a large-scale ‘influenza’ killed more than 10,000 people” in the US in August 2019 following the closure; and the COVID-19 epidemic broke out globally in February 2020 after the US organized Event 201 – A Global Pandemic Exercise – in October 2019. 

The petition also noted that many English-language news reports about the closure of Fort Detrick were deleted amid the worsening COVID-19 pandemic, raising suspicions over the lab’s relationship with the novel coronavirus. 

Petitioners urged the US government to publish the real reason for the lab’s closure and to clarify whether the lab was related to the novel coronavirus and whether there was a virus leak. 

The Global Times quoted a few “Chinese netizens” who seemed very excited about this theory, but also noted the “petition” it is so exercised about had a mere 400 signatures – a number the Communist Party’s propagandists might have thought sounded impressive, but in reality is laughably small, especially since China is probably doing everything it can to pump up the number of signatories.

The article concluded with quotes from some Chinese academics who loaned their prestige to Beijing’s propaganda campaign to make the United States look like the party that has been dangerously secretive about the coronavirus epidemic, rather than China, which indisputably put the entire world at risk by brutally suppressing politically inconvenient early reports about the dangerous virus.

On Friday, the lead U.S. ambassador for Asia, David Stilwell, summoned Chinese Ambassador Cui Tiankai to lodge “stern representations” against Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian for spreading coronavirus conspiracy theories.

“China is seeking to deflect criticism for its role in starting a global pandemic and not telling the world. Spreading conspiracy theories is dangerous and ridiculous. We wanted to put the government on notice we won’t tolerate it, for the good of the Chinese people and the world,” said a U.S. State Department official quoted by the Hong Kong Free Press (HKFP).

The HKFP noted China is not the only malevolent power spreading disinformation about the coronavirus:

US officials earlier told AFP that Russia had systematically spread disinformation in an effort to damage the US reputation, with coordinated Facebook and Twitter posts that suggested that the United States was behind the novel coronavirus.

Russia denied responsibility for the social media effort, which recalled the former Soviet Union’s campaign in the 1980s to link HIV to the US government.

Iran’s firebrand former president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, has written the World Health Organization to urge an investigation into the “biological war against humanity,” questioning why US adversaries China and Iran have been so badly hit.

MarketWatch on Sunday cited analysts who thought China’s short-term objective is simply to muddy the waters internationally while making a concerted effort to shift domestic anger away from Beijing. 

These analysts doubted the conspiracy theories will find much purchase in the civilized world, but might be swallowed by Chinese citizens who either support the Communist regime or welcome an excuse to mute criticism because they understand speaking out is extremely dangerous, especially at a moment when Chinese officials are feeling paranoid about the threat to their power posed by the epidemic.

Former MarketWatch executive Bill Bishop wondered if the Chinese propaganda effort might be part of an opportunistic play to create and deepen a global recession, which would be very helpful to China’s tottering economy right now.

“Previous Communist Party-led disasters in China since 1949 never really spread outside the PRC’s borders in meaningful ways. Not this time,” Bishop noted.

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