Respected science writer Nicholas Wade uncovers more. About how the guild of virology obfuscated, the World Health Organisation was suborned, the anti-Trump US media kept silent and the divided US polity let the culprit escape. Being a disciplined writer he did not touch the most sensitive subject - the link between the Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV) and the PLA (Chinese military), which is now coming out. With the risky cooperative venture of the two friendly powers now in conflict endangering the world, where does all this leave the US and China, the world and its future? Read on.
With no ancient history to learn from and guided only by recent histories in its geopolitical strategies, the US is paying for its post-Cold War assumption that a prosperous China would eventually democratise. A great Indian seer said as far back as in 1973 that "communism was a passing phase in China and a Confucian China would emerge out of Communist China with its empire building instincts intact." The modern minded America missed this historic ancient buried deep in the communist China’s consciousness. The Marxist state in China pretended to be a market economy and mesmerised the US to admit it into the WTO in 2001. Exactly 18 years later in 2019, the US and the EU were heard crying in the WTO that China was not a market economy. The WTO finally declared it was not. This shows US shortsightedness and how farsighted China was. The advent of Trump was too late for America, as by that time commercial interests had become so dependent on the supply chains from China that the US had lost its leverage over it. In too many areas, the US and China had joint exercises with China having undisclosed undercover intent and operations. The focused China cleverly co-opted the defocused US in the dirty coronavirus research. The exposures embarrassed both but the US most.
Wade imagines what the behind-the-scenes conversation between the US and China could be, with the Chinese saying, "If this research was so dangerous, why did you fund it, and on our territory too?" The US side could retort, "Looks like it was you who let it escape. But do we really need to have this discussion in public?" Wade says that with Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, falling out with Trump but now handling the epidemic for President Joe Biden, the Congress will have little appetite to haul him for funding Shi Zhengli’s evil work at WIV. Result, just as China is keen to bury the truth about the WIV-generated virus, the US, too, will be keen to let China do it.
And now come to the scientist guild. When the virus outbreak in Wuhan pointed at the WIV as the source, a group of virologists and others wrote in the Lancet on Feb 9, 2020 that "We stand together to strongly condemn conspiracy theories suggesting that COVID-19 does not have a natural origin" and that "scientists overwhelmingly conclude that this coronavirus originated in wildlife". They gave a call to stand with Chinese colleagues on the frontline in the fight against the disease. This was, says Wade, when it was really far too soon for anyone to be sure what had happened. Yet, this had a great impact on global opinion.
A second one that had enormous influence in shaping public attitudes was a letter authored by a group of virologists published in the journal Nature Medicine on 17 March 2020. While para 2 of the letter declared with certainty that SARS-2 "was not a laboratory construct", its latter part said that it was "improbable" that it was lab manipulated, indicating its certainty had slipped several notches down. Yet no one would dare ask them. Why? Wade says that in universities ‘speech can be costly’, ‘careers can be destroyed for stepping out of line’ and any one ‘challenging the community’s declared view risks having his next grant application not approved by the community heads. Virologists, says Wade, are a loose-knit professional community, writing articles in the same journals, attending the same conferences, and having common interests in seeking funds from governments. This points to a more serious danger - of an oligarchy controlling the science establishment.
Now examine WHO’s role. First, it obligingly implied the natural evolution theory in naming the virus. Next, the composition of the WHO commission to probe whether it was natural evolution or man-made was heavily controlled by the Chinese authorities. Wade says that its members, who included the ubiquitous Peter Daszak (head of NGO EcoHealth Alliance, through which US funds were routed to WIV) kept asserting before, during and after the visit to WIV that lab escape was unlikely.
The Chinese had no evidence in support of the natural emergence theory. The commission’s non-conclusion about both natural evolution and lab leak "was not quite the propaganda victory the Chinese authorities may have been hoping for", according to Wade. He is sure that China’s central authorities did their utmost to conceal the nature of the tragedy and China's responsibility for it, suppressed all records at the WIV and closed down its virus databases; released a trickle of information, either false or designed to misdirect and mislead; and did their best to manipulate the WHO's inquiry into the virus’ origins. Chinese were far more interested in deflecting blame than in taking steps to prevent a second pandemic.
Natural emergence, which, Wade says, was the media’s preferred theory until around the February 2021 visit by a WHO commission to China, is no more unquestioned. In the end, the manipulated WHO mission that neither found the truth nor helped the Chinese, stands most discredited.
Divided US, silenced media
Citing the deafening silence of mainstream US media on the lab leak issue, Wade rightly points to the absence of an in-depth news story of the virus that has killed 3.5 million people - something that should merit serious investigation. He mentions two reasons for the media’s lethargy. First is the virologists' opinion. Second, because President Trump said the virus had escaped from a Wuhan lab, the media, most of which had migrated to the left of the political spectrum, gave the idea little credence. They preferred to join the respectable virologists' view that the lab escape was a dismissible conspiracy theory, and rejected the position of the US intelligence services that lab escape could not be ruled out. Clearly, the political divide silenced the media, too.
As a disciplined science writer, Wade talks of only benign leak of the deadly virus from WIV. But many see sinister designs behind the construction of the evil virus at WIV. Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro has openly said that coronavirus is a bio-war weapon and COVID-19 is bio-war. Brazil has 10 times India’s death rate and three times our infection rate.
Next, a fact sheet in January 2021 from the US State Department under the subhead "Secret military activity at the WIV", said "the US has determined" that the WIV has collaborated with Chinese military on secret projects, engaging in classified research, including lab animal experiments since at least 2017.
Adding that the Chinese have been engaging in bio-weapons work, it said that the US and others who funded or collaborated with the WIV had an obligation to find out whether any research fund was diverted to secret Chinese military projects.
Three, a Begin-Sadat Centre paper says that the US had been able to get a 'source' from WIV directly, and that another Chinese scientist had defected to an unknown European country with information on the military side of the WIV. The study also quotes David Asher, who led a Department of State investigation, as saying the WIV has two campuses, surprisingly adding that it was known to the Indian authorities for years. Asher says that all mention of the SARS virus was dropped from the institute’s publicly admitted biological "defence programmes" by 2017, about the same time when the second lab kicked off operations. Four, the UK-based Sun newspaper, quoting the Australian media, says that the Chinese Army has projected that the next world war would be fought with bio-weapons and for that purpose, it developed in 2015 coronaviruses to destroy the enemy’s health infrastructure. It added that the US State Department has obtained Chinese documents that disclose the design. Undeniably, WIV is mixed up with heinous work.
World and China
Where has all this left the world? Health, peace, livelihood and families of most humanity are destroyed and most national economies are stressed because of the deadly virus whose supply chain is undoubtedly sourced in China and spread to the entire humanity with no exception. But China, the purveyor of the virus and already an emerging superpower, is safe with its economy on a high growth curve. With its military might, it can overawe all nations distressed by the bio-virus exported by it.
Will US-China politics bury or expose?
Now come to the US divided within and its China relations. When Avril Haines, President Biden’s director of national intelligence, said the WIV lab leak cannot be ruled out, she was largely ignored. But of late the Biden administration and the US media are becoming active in questioning the natural evolution theory.
Fauci himself said that the lab escape theory cannot be ruled out. The Wall Street Journal recently reported a fact sheet of the State Department during Trump's tenure, which had found that even before the outbreak of coronavirus, in November 2019, researchers at WIV sought hospital care with symptoms consistent with COVID-19. It adds to the call for probe into lab escape, the WSJ said. Politico magazine said that in the same fact sheet, US diplomats who had visited the WIV in 2018, warned that the WIV researchers had found new bat coronaviruses that could easily infect human cells, but no one listened then.
The media and the Biden administration are under pressure to tell the truth and act. But will they? Or will they buckle under pressure and bury the truth?
Wade hopes that the "The common sense perception that a pandemic breaking out in Wuhan might have something to do with a Wuhan lab cooking up novel viruses of maximal danger could eventually displace the ideological insistence that whatever Trump said can’t be true." Being a democratic nation, burying such an elephantine truth is impossible in the US.
(The writer is editor in Thuglak, and commentator on economic and political affairs)