Ben Roback is head of commercial and international policy for the Cicero group.
After courting President Xi for golf and dessert, Donald Trump made China’s hawk an accepted rule of his presidency. You can see three minutes of Trump saying “China” in an idiosyncraticly Trump-like way YouTube, with clips dating back to his time in the White House. For businessman Trump, China was an opportunity. As a politician, he became a threat.
So it was no surprise when Trump identified China as a scapegoat and began blaming the origin of the Covid-19 outbreak in the Chinese state.
The theory is that the virus originated at the Institute of Virology in Wuhan, China. It deserves research and should not be ruled out of hand. A previously unrevealed U.S. intelligence report revealed that three investigators of The Wuhan Institute of Virology of China got sick enough in November 2019, they sought hospital care.
The following month, cases of pneumonia were detected in Wuhan and first reported to the World Health Organization (WHO). In January, the Wuhan Municipal Health Commission announced the first death caused by the “new coronavirus.” One of the final acts of the Trump administration in January was to publish a State Department fact sheet on “Activity at Wuhan Institute of Virology“. Ultimately, he was not conclusive in his recommendation:
The US government does not know exactly where, when or how the Covid-19 virus (known as SARS-CoV-2) was initially transmitted to humans. We have not determined whether the outbreak began by contact with infected animals or was the result of an accident in a laboratory in Wuhan, China.
Instead, he largely claimed the need for a true and thorough investigation into the origin of the outbreak, which the Chinese state continues to block with all its might, demonstrating the desperate lack of power of the outbreak. WHO.
A Trump theory is widespread
Most of the things Trump said during his presidency became intensely politicized and caused an immediate anathema to Democrats and Republicans who were never Trump. If the president said that, he was unconscious for Senator Mitt Romney or Senator Chuck Schumer. Could this change?
“In recent months, our nation and the world have been affected by the pandemic that once a century allowed China to spread around the world,” Trump said in his speech accepting the GOP nomination in the August 2020.
Wuhan’s laboratory theory was exploited by Trump’s allies and acolytes in political gatherings. The “China virus” effectively became a Republican hotbed (and, with it, increased anti-Asian discrimination in the United States). This moved away from theory the non-political drive driven by science.
Democrats and U.S. government officials are getting close to the idea. Closer to home, in an interview with Canadian news, even Boris Johnson said he had an “open mind” about the origin of the virus.
Joe Biden would do well to differentiate between Trump’s claims (plausible but so far unproven) that the Covid-19 was an intentional weapon distributed by the Chinese government.
One step back from this position, there is a clear and urgent need for a thorough investigation into the source of the outbreak. The Chinese government, despite its smoke and mirrors, should not be allowed to challenge the United Nations and the World Health Organization forever. It mocks global institutions like the UN and the WHO if they cannot dilute disagreements in international relations and investigate issues of global importance like this.
Signs are beginning to emerge that Biden’s presidency is taking Wuhan’s theory seriously. Last week, President Biden ordered intelligence officials to “redouble” efforts to investigate the origins of Covid-19.
A report is expected at the president’s table in 90 days. We will know in the fall if Trump will have been right, although his credibility with regard to intelligence reports was reduced due to several acts of self-sabotage that had chosen to politicize the reports and go into against the U.S. intelligence community.
All of this shows that Wuhan’s theory has now moved significantly in U.S. political discourse. It was once a point of conversation for Republicans and Trump sycophants on Fox News, the CPAC, and the Sea-a-Lago Golden Lounges. No Republican has ever lost friends or votes guilty of the pandemic in China.
A favorite topic of speech by Trump, Mike Pompeo and Tom Cotton has now been found firmly in the mainstream. In less than 90 days, Trump could be vindicated. The “complete investigation” sought by the U.S. government inevitably seems impossible. Chinese state obstructionism will continue without any doubt. It will put continuous pressure on US-China relations for years to come.
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