Why did the Chinese military take over the lab in Wuhan in end January?
Did something go wrong? Claude Arpi glances at the mystery surrounding the origin of the coronavirus.
China started information warfare to prove to the world that COVID-19, which originated in China, does not have its origin in China.
Zhao Lijian, a spokesperson of the ministry of foreign affairs in Beijing, tweeted that the US army had brought the dreaded virus to Wuhan.
Wang Yi, China's state councilor and foreign minister, phoned his Indian counterpart Dr S Jaishankar that the virus should not be called 'Chinese', as it would stigmatise the country and would be detrimental to 'international cooperation'.
The stakes are high for Beijing: externally, it does not want to appear as the bad guy who spread the virus all over the planet with the drastic consequences seen today (more than 1.7 million affected, more than one lakh casualties, while three billion human beings live under confinement, all this with unpredictable and incalculable economic and social implications), but also internally, where General Secretary Xi Jinping's is more and more questioned within the Chinese Communist arty.
The Real Issue
The objective of Beijing's information warfare exercise is to make the world forget to look for the real origin of the virus, something vital to avoid the recurrence.
Interestingly, a group of Chinese scholars led by Botao Xiao of the South China University of Technology wrote a paper in February for the Natural Science Foundation of China; it dealt with 'The possible origins of 2019-nCoV coronavirus'.
After searching around the seafood market in Wuhan, said to be the epicentre of the outbreak, they identified two laboratories conducting research on bat coronavirus.
The first one, the Wuhan Centre for Disease Control & Prevention is located 280 meters from the market.
The scientists found that 'urgery was performed on the caged animals and the tissue samples were collected for DNA and RNA extraction and sequencing. The tissue samples and contaminated trashes were a source of pathogens.'
It is not proof, but a possibility to be studied fully.
The second laboratory, the Wuhan Institute of Virology of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, is located 15 kilometres from the seafood market.
It was recently in the news when Dr Chen Wei, a lieutenant general in the People's Liberation Army, took over the management.
Xiao and his colleagues concluded: 'Somebody was entangled with the evolution of 2019-nCoV coronavirus. In addition to origins of natural recombination and intermediate host, the killer coronavirus probably originated from a laboratory in Wuhan. Safety level may need to be reinforced in high risk bio-hazardous laboratories.'
'Regulations may be taken to relocate these laboratories far away from the city centre and other densely populated places,' Xiao and his colleagues recommended.
All this means that more serious and independent studies need to be undertaken to find out more about the origin of the 'international' virus.
|Maj Gen Chen Wei with Sun Chunlan, member of the CCC Politburo|
|Maj Gen Chen Wei|
|The Lab in Wuhan|
|The Lab in Wuhan|
|Inauguration (February 2017)|
|First injection of the new vaccine to gen Chen Wei|
|Shi Zhengli, senior scientist working on bats in the lab in Wuhan|