The People’s Daily, the official newspaper of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), published a story Wednesday highlighting calls from Moscow to investigate American biological laboratories and linking them to the ongoing Chinese coronavirus pandemic.
The Communist Party has repeatedly claimed that evidence exists that the true origin of the virus lies in the United States. During a recent briefing, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying claimed that questions surround the safety protocols around a now-closed U.S. Army laboratory in Maryland and that e-cigarette, or vaping, related respiratory illnesses documented in America last year could have been early Chinese coronavirus cases. None of those diagnosed with vaping illnesses were contagious, a fact Hua has not addressed.
The People’s Daily, actually reprinting an article by the state-run CGTN media outlet, noted that Russian Foreign Ministry Sergey Lavrov last week accused Washington of not being transparent in running biological laboratories, particularly in post-Soviet states. America’s “behavior has raised international concerns about what is really going on in the labs,” CGTN claimed Lavrov had suggested.
As the Russian outlet TASS reproduced Lavrov’s comments last week, they were not directly linked to any discussion on the Chinese coronavirus.
“For almost 20 years, Russia and most other countries, including China, have been calling for a protocol to the convention that would establish a mechanism to verify and check states parties’ compliance with their commitment not to create biological weapons,” Lavrov claimed. “The United States stands almost alone against this initiative. Tensions around the issue have escalated and Washington’s unwillingness to ensure the transparency of its military biological activities in various parts of the world raises questions about what is really going on there and what the actual goals are.”
Lavrov did discuss the potential origin of the Chinese coronavirus, but in a way that appeared more defensive on China’s behalf than accusatory towards America.
“When we say that reasons behind emergence of the coronavirus infection must be determined, I believe that it is an absolutely justified wording. However, this must be approached from the standpoint of sense, of substance,” he said. “We are against […] politicizing this scientific, humanistic approach in dirty competition.”
The location where the virus first infected human beings is not a matter of significant debate outside of complaints from the Chinese government and its allies. The first known cases of Chinese coronavirus infection occurred in Wuhan, China; leaked Chinese government documents time the first diagnosis in mid-November 2019. Some Chinese state media outlets have tried to disseminate the conspiracy theory that American soldiers brought the virus to Wuhan in October 2019, when the city hosted the Military World Games, but no evidence of any infections tied to that event exists.
Challenging the lack of evidence of any coronavirus cases outside of Wuhan before this time, as Lavrov appeared to do, allows for a defense of the Communist Party’s moves to silence anyone aware of an infectious disease outbreak and destroy early samples of the virus in January 2020.
The CGTN report implied that Lavrov’s comments opened the door for an investigation into Beijing’s allegation that the virus may have originated in America, citing the Fort Detrick, Maryland, U.S. Army lab as “the center of the U.S. government’s darkest experiments.” The lab ceased functioning in July.
“What’s even more worrisome was that a vaping-related lung disease, the symptoms of which resemble those of COVID-19 pneumonia, broke out in a community just one hour’s drive away from the lab shortly after the lab was shut down,” the article alleged. “The timing and the location of the outbreak appear dubious, especially since e-cigarettes have been sold in the country since 2007.”
The report echoed Hua Chunying’s comments in the beginning of the month.
“There are also reports that soon after the closure [of the Fort Detrick laboratory], ‘E-cigarette disease’ broke out in the surroundings,” Hua told reporters. “According to data released by the US CDC in late February, the flu season that begins in the winter of 2019 has infected at least 32 million people in the United States, including 18,000 deaths from flu-related illnesses.”
Maryland did not document a significantly elevated number of vaping related illnesses compared to other states. Hua did not offer any explanation for how Maryland could be the birthplace of the outbreak if other states hundreds of miles away experienced vaping illnesses prior to Maryland, nor did she address the fact that none of those patients were isolated and there is no evidence of their illnesses infecting health workers or others near them.
The Chinese coronavirus, considered a close relative to the SARS virus which also originated in China, is considered highly contagious through fluid droplets in the air.
In the article the People’s Daily published on Wednesday, Chinese media found the American government’s lack of comment on the bizarre conspiracy suspicious.
“Unsurprisingly, U.S. authorities and politicians have remained silent on the issue,” the report claimed. “The unusual silence from Washington has raised international concerns as to what kind of risks the U.S. biolabs, which are found in former Soviet Union member countries, Southeast Asian nations and African countries, may pose to global public health security.”
The report appears to be an effort to galvanize global support for an international probe into American biological research, ostensibly to find the “true” origin of the virus. Last week, the Global Times, another Communist Party publication, suggested that China and its allies should use venues like the U.N. Security Council to force an international investigation into the labs in question.
China could potentially find in Russia an ally for such an investigation. For years, the Russian Defense Ministry has accused the United States of creating biological weapons in laboratories throughout Eastern Europe. In 2018, the ministry explicitly claimed that the Richard G. Lugar Center for Public Health Research in Tbilisi, Georgia, was a secret weapons development center. Russian officials spread alleged Georgian documents claiming that American researchers were using “volunteers” as experimental victims in creating biological toxins.
The Pentagon responded by calling the claims “an invention of the imaginative and false Russian disinformation campaign against the West” and “obvious attempts to divert attention from Russia’s bad behavior on many fronts.”
Russian conspiracy media revived the Lugar Center rumors in relation to the Chinese coronavirus outbreak, claiming that it may have been the origin location of the pandemic. These reports did not acknowledge that the center has long cooperated with the World Health Organization (W.H.O.) and conducted its research openly, accepting international visits.