“When war is declared, truth is the first casualty.”
On January 24, a headline in the right-wing Washington Times read, “Coronavirus may have originated in a lab linked to China’s biowarfare program.” The claim was largely debunked and ignored. However, the story was then notably resuscitated by Washington Post columnist Josh Rogin in April. By the end of the piece, Rogin admitted, “We don’t know whether the novel coronavirus originated in the Wuhan lab.” Shortly thereafter, the claim spread to Fox News and other mainstream outlets. Soon enough, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and President Trump publicly promoted the unfounded conspiracy theory.
According to prominent sources within the scientific community, the virus in question almost certainly has natural origins. For instance, an article featured in the prestigious scientific journal Nature explained:
“Our analyses clearly show that SARS-CoV-2 is not a laboratory construct or a purposefully manipulated virus. […] Instead, we propose two scenarios that can plausibly explain the origin of SARS-CoV-2: (i) natural selection in an animal host before zoonotic transfer; and (ii) natural selection in humans following zoonotic transfer. We also discuss whether selection during passage could have given rise to SARS-CoV-2.”
Furthermore, The Lancet published a letter signed by 27 public health scientists from eight countries who “strongly condemn conspiracy theories suggesting that COVID-19 does not have a natural origin.” The letter continues by clarifying that “scientists from multiple countries have published and analyzed genomes of the causative agent, severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2), and they overwhelmingly conclude that this coronavirus originated in wildlife, as have so many other emerging pathogens.”
In short, the sensational claim that the virus originated in a Chinese lab has absolutely no supporting evidence. This specific case of anti-China propaganda is simply fuel on the pre-existing fire of unfounded Western smears against this rising power in the East. For instance, in August of 2018, prominent Western news media outlets began claiming that the United Nations had compiled reports of Chinese government “internment camps” in which as many as one million ethnic Uyghur Muslims were being held. However, upon further inspection, the claim deteriorated. It turned out that the U.N. as a whole had made no such statement, and that the explosive assertion came from a single individual, Gay McDougall, who was the sole American member of the independent Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination.
According to the Associated Press, McDougall “did not specify a source for that information in her remarks at the [U.N.] hearing.” Despite the complete absence of evidence for this serious charge, more propaganda subsequently surfaced from other dubious Western sources, including a U.S. government-funded “activist group” called the Network of Chinese Human Rights Defenders (CHRD). According to The Grayzone, “ the board of the organization is a Who’s Who of exiled Chinese anti-government activists.” The CHRD has even endorsed Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo, a neoconservative who has expressed racist views toward Chinese people and supports colonialism.
During his recent trip to China, journalist Danny Haiphong didn’t see “internment camps” in Xinjiang Province. Haiphong further explained that “it is difficult to walk more than a mile without running into a mosque. Every street sign in the city is translated in both Mandarin and Uyghur languages. Security is more plentiful in Ürümqi than in Beijing or Xi’an, and for good reason. Most Westerners are unaware that Xinjiang Province is the site of numerous terror attacks that have taken the lives of hundreds of people.” Due to the ongoing threat of Islamist terrorism, Xinjiang “has set up vocational and training centers in accordance with the law to provide courses on Mandarin, laws, vocational skills and deradicalization programs for people influenced by religious extremism and terrorism.”
Nevertheless, relying heavily on unsubstantiated Western propaganda of the aforementioned variety, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the Uyghur Human Rights Policy Act late last year. The bill, which includes additional economic sanctions, is part of a larger pattern of new Cold War-style escalations between the two powerful nations. With these tensions comes a surge in Sinophobic hate crimes buttressed by bipartisan, racist rhetoric from American politicians, replacing the hysterical Russophobia of yesteryear. As noted in the New York Times, this onslaught is “reminiscent of the kind faced by American Muslims, Arabs and South Asians in the United States after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.”
After its “breathtaking” response to the recent coronavirus outbreak, China has found itself further entrenched in a hybrid war with the American empire. As journalist Pepe Escobar explained, “For the first time since the start of Deng Xiaoping’s reforms in 1978, Beijing openly regards the U.S. as a threat…” It is certainly true that China is undermining America’s global hegemony by engaging in international solidarity efforts with nations that have historically been in the crosshairs of U.S. imperialism (Venezuela, Iran, Cuba, North Korea, etc.). Due to the evident domestic decline of American society, this ongoing cooperation between those consistently demonized, sanctioned, invaded, or otherwise targeted by the West could become a model for a multi-polar global future.
On October 10, 1990, a shocking testimony was given to the Congressional Human Rights Caucus by a 15-year-old girl named Nayirah. The distraught teenager recounted an event she said she had witnessed as a volunteer at a Kuwaiti hospital after the Iraqi invasion earlier that year. “While I was there I saw the Iraqi soldiers come into the hospital with guns. They took the babies out of the incubators, took the incubators and left the children to die on the cold floor. It was horrifying,” the girl proclaimed. Although it was partially used to justify the Gulf War, the story turned out to false, just like the narrative that was used to justify the subsequent 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq.
Iraq is not unique. Imperialist lies have also been used to justify American aggression in Libya, Syria, Venezuela, and countless other sovereign nations around the world. Even the justification for the Vietnam War turned out to be fabricated. Such falsehoods have allowed the American empire to violently ravage the globe for decades to protect its so-called economic interests. Now that “socialism with Chinese characteristics” is providing a viable alternative to the battle-scarred neoliberal capitalist model, the imperfect, yet successful economic power that lifted 800 million people out of extreme poverty is being maligned with spurious propaganda. Don’t believe the hype.
This article has also been published by The Hampton Institute.