Wuhan Lab And COVID-19 Origins Are Under Scrutiny Once Again

New efforts by the United States government to determine the origins of the COVID-19 virus are causing unease in Beijing. China’s foreign ministry has rejected the possibility of a connection between the virus and a virus research laboratory in Wuhan and accused the US of “political manipulation and blame shifting.” Chinese authorities linked the earliest cases of the virus to a seafood market leading the initial scientific theories to center around the idea of COVID-19 first being transmitted from animals to humans.

Growing speculation appears to point in the direction of the virus having escaped from the Wuhan lab. Although the evidence available in the public domain has not changed, media reports from some US outlets in the past week suggest that US intelligence agencies received information that three staff members at the Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV) were sick enough to go hospital in November 2019 with symptoms very similar to those of the coronavirus.  Days later, the Biden administration ordered the US intelligence community to assess the origins of the virus and whether COVID-19 could’ve leaked from the Wuhan lab.

China is understandably angered by this. Beijing has spent much of the past fifteen months conducting damage control. The government’s actions, and as the case turned out, inactions, in the early days of the pandemic caused alarm and concern in a number of national capitals across the world. Many people believed, and still do, that China is hiding and distorting the facts.

Now that the Biden administration is openly challenging the truth according to China, the Chinese government is moving to counter the US argument and expected blowback. Foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said Washington’s words show that the US “does not care about facts or truth, and has zero interest in a serious science-based study of origins. Their aim is to use the pandemic to pursue stigmatisation, political manipulation and blame shifting. They are being disrespectful to science, irresponsible to people’s lives and counter-productive to the concerted efforts to fight the virus.” Running parallel with China’s clunky public accusations such as this one, will be more clandestine efforts to dampen the effects of the widening US investigation. Media outlets, politicians and businesses with financial ties and relationships with the Chinese government and CCP will be approached, persuaded and in some cases blackmailed or threatened.

We’ve seen it before and the fact that China is responding so fast to the return of COVID-19 suspicions indicates that Beijing might have more to hide than it is letting on.

The US is Placing China in the Crosshairs

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As the tide starts to turn on the COVID-1 pandemic in the United States, so too is the tone of the Trump Administration. With the darkest days likely behind us, the focus is being centered on China, and the many unanswered questions about its discreditable efforts to contain COVID-19 in the early days of the Wuhan outbreak. More directly, President Trump continues to stand by his belief that the coronavirus outbreak originated in a Chinese lab. He has repeated the claim publicly in recent days, and at the same time it has become widely known that US intelligence is conducting a deep investigation to determine the origins of the Wuhan coronavirus, also known as COVID-19. According to the president, an investigation is also underway taking a hard look at how the Chinese government dealt with the virus in the early stages of the outbreak.

To make the relationship between the world’s two most powerful nations even more strained, Trump administration officials are beginning to look at possible punishments for China’s handling of the pandemic. The most significant proposal so far is stripping the PRC of its ‘sovereign immunity’ which would give the US government, and victims of the pandemic the ability to sue China for damages. Another proposal being floated is the US cancelling part of its debt obligation to the PRC. This step would be more trouble than its worth, however. Holding off on interest payments would create serious drag for the dollar and with the global economy in flux due to the pandemic, now is not the ideal time for such a move.

In any event, it is clear now that the United States is moving to put the crosshairs on China. It will be interesting to see what the final results of the investigation are, and how the US decides to respond at the end of the day.

Looking Ahead to the Post-Pandemic World

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Right now the world’s focus is centered on the COVID-19 pandemic. Media coverage is virtually 24/7 at this point and that does not appear likely to change in the near future. Coverage is also directed at how the pandemic is affecting a media organization’s home city, region, and nation. Pandemic coverage is largely ignoring international events except for reporting the number of COVID-19 cases and deaths in nations around the world. The pandemic dominates global attention at the moment, and rightfully so. What is not being discussed at length right now is what the world might look like down the line when life finally returns to normal.

Despite the fact it has received little press coverage, how this pandemic is going to bring about some unpleasant, and surprising consequences for a number of supra-national bodies, relationships between certain countries, and the overall geopolitical realm. This is most evident in Europe at the moment where the European Union’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic has been two steps behind that of many of its member-states. Even more critical is the aftereffect the lack of EU leadership could have on Europe when all is said and done. Along with this, the pandemic is straining many relationships between European nations, especially in regard to the aid and responses to the pandemic’s explosion in Spain and Italy. Then there is China, and the Middle East where the pandemic is having a direct effect on energy production.

It is safe to assume the geopolitical order could be reshaped entirely by COVID-19.

These are topics we’re going to examine in the coming week and beyond as the Post-pandemic world starts to take shape and come into focus.

 

China’s COVID-19 Propaganda Offensive

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The Chinese Communist Party’s latest propaganda offensive has targeted the United States squarely in the stars and stripes. This week has seen Chinese government officials, and media representatives come out and directly attack the US, and purposely spread misinformation about COVID-19. Beijing is now attempting to deny that the virus started in Wuhan, and has in fact blamed the US for creating the virus, and subsequent outbreak. China’s reason for this shift in propaganda tactics is producing a number of theories that are not outside the realm of possibility. One theory is that China is attempting to flip responsibility for COVID-19 on the US because its now fragile global reputation cannot absorb another hit. The Chinese government is reeling from a number of policy failures, and misjudgments over the past two years. Another is that the Chinese government plans to use the COVID-19 crisis as the basis for a renewed propaganda offensive that will debilitate America’s global power. This theory holds some water too.

A third theory has been quietly circulating. In recent days it has started to gain some momentum. It is that the Chinese government’s extensive propaganda efforts against the US are for the benefit of a domestic audience, not an international one. A sizeable chunk of Chinese citizens are troubled by the actions their government took to fight the COVID-19 outbreak. With all of the other problems on its plate, the Chinese government does not need internal discontent to rise. It makes sense to try and lay the blame on the US, conveniently providing Beijing with a scapegoat.

There are also reports that not everyone in the Chinese Communist Party is happy with President  Xi Jinping’s actions with regard to handling the coronavirus. However, it is fair to say that any discontent over Xi is probably not limited solely to his coronavirus response. The Hong Kong unrest, and slowing economy have also contributed as well. Although Xi’s hold on power may appear to be complete, it will take but the slightest misstep for him, and everything he’s built to collapse.

That could be a main reason why the Chinese government now seems so desperate to pin the blame for COVID-19 on the US.

Wuhan Coronavirus: Economic & Geopolitical Consequences

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As the Wuhan coronavirus continues to evolve and spread the same can be said about the economic and geopolitical implications brought on by the virus. The world is still in a very early stage of the game with regards to the spread and containment of Wuhan coronavirus. The World Health Organization’s labeling of the virus as a ‘global health emergency’ underscores the gravity of the current situation. Aside from the obvious medical ramifications, the world is beginning to see the effect of the virus in other areas.

Economically, the first effect of the Wuhan coronavirus is already being felt in markets and economies worldwide.  has arrived following the world economy’s worst year in a decade. Asian markets closed the week with mounting losses, especially the Hang Seng, Hong Kong’s main stock index. On Friday, Wall Street joined in with the Dow losing 600 points. China’s economy has already been suffering from a downturn in the last year and the Wuhan coronavirus is expected to limit growth even more. How much damage it does to the world’s second largest economy depends greatly on the length of the present crisis. Experts anticipate it will last at least into the summer which will greatly affect China’s tourism industry. Other nations in Southeast Asia will be dealing with similar economic consequences.

The geopolitical ramifications of the Wuhan coronavirus are taking shape right now. Anti-Chinese sentiment is growing as stringent travel bans and restrictions are being proposed in nations around the world. In a growing number of cases, bans and restrictions of varying degrees are being put into practice. In Beijing, the Chinese government has reacted unfavorably to these actions and understandably so. But it went too far when China’s acting ambassador to Israel compared the travel bans to the treatment of Jews in the Holocaust. Not exactly the best way to gin up global sympathy to what the Chinese people are enduring at the moment.

The geopolitical aspects of the Wuhan coronavirus crisis will be talked about more this week. For now, the Super Bowl is set to begin shortly and I hope everyone enjoys the game.