China’s highly-secretive ruling Communist Party unleashed a microscopic killer on the world and tried to cover it up.
As the carnage unfolded across the planet in 2020, President Xi Jinping’s regime stymied attempts to delve into the origins of the Covid-19 virus.
At least 761 million people have been infected globally since the outbreak in the Chinese city of Wuhan turned into a pandemic. The death toll now hovers close to seven million, the World Health Organization reported.
But suppression instead of sincerity has always been Beijing’s strategy when dealing with the rest of the world.
“China has consistently sought to stymie investigations into the Huanan market’s role as the epicenter of the early outbreak, instead concocting scientifically impossible theories about imported frozen food and conspiracies about American bioweapons,” Foreign Policy’s China Brief pointed out.
“This isn’t surprising. China was supposed to have cleaned up its live animal trade after the first so-called SARS outbreak [in 2002], but that industry was too profitable and well-connected to face real regulation, especially in a country with poorly enforced food safety standards,” China Brief said earlier this week.
Data goes viral:
- On March 21, a report into the origins of the Wuhan epidemic stressed that Covid-infected animals were being sold at the Huanan market in Wuhan.
- A pre-print report by an international team of researchers fleshed out the analysis.
- It included previously unseen genomic samples collected by Chinese scientists in Wuhan in 2019.
- The study was initially leaked last week after a meeting of the WHO committee on the origins of SARS-CoV-2.
Between the lines: “This adds to the body of evidence identifying the Huanan market as the spillover location of [Covid-19] and the epicenter of the pandemic,” the report revealed.
Delve deeper: The crucial Chinese data was posted briefly on an international database earlier this month before being taken down. “The big issue is that this data exists and is not readily available to the international community,” WHO epidemiologist Maria Van Kerkhove said at the time.
Big Picture: Australian virologist Dominic Dwyer, who was part of the WHO investigation mission to Wuhan in 2021, underlined the importance of transparency.
What he said: “If we’d had this evidence three years ago, we need to ask ourselves how different recent history would have been.”
Look back in anger: “Lessons for the future are obvious. Open disclosure of sequence data is the best way to undertake [a] scientific investigation, especially for something of such international significance,” Professor Dwyer wrote in a commentary this week for The Conversation, an academic website.
China Factor comment: The Communist Party has been shrouded in secrecy since it was born behind closed doors in the French Concession of Shanghai in 1921. Nothing much has changed since then except those doors have been reinforced with concrete and steel under Comrade Xi Jinping. Whatever the cost might be to China and the rest of the world.