Why is the Covid-19 lab leak theory back in the headlines?
For most people in the world, Covid is over. We have successfully moved on. We don’t let it worry us anymore or undermine our lives, and the harshest restrictions, apart from a few places, are firmly a thing of the past.
However, there’s one lingering aftermath of the pandemic which refuses to go away, and that’s the political blame game. Over the past few days, the US government has again been cultivating the “lab leak” conspiracy theory, claiming that the Сovid-19 virus originated from a laboratory leak in the Wuhan Institute of Virology.
The re-emergence of these claims seems random, but it has been coordinated across the administration. First, the US Department of Energy issued a report on the matter, then US ambassador to China Nicholas Burns called on Beijing to be “more honest” about Covid origins, which was followed by FBI Director Christopher Wray making his statement.
The question is: why are they doing this? And why now? The answer is, yet again, the US is weaponizing this conspiracy theory in a bid to undermine China publicly. Specifically, the goal is to create a public distraction from several issues China has been focusing on lately. One of those is the chemical disaster plaguing the US state of Ohio after last month’s train derailment, and the Biden administration’s bungled response to it. The other is China’s Ukraine peace plan.
For three years, the US has used the Covid-19 pandemic as a public opinion weapon against China across a number of areas, openly scapegoating Beijing for the pandemic and its consequences, while also seeking to depict China’s response to the pandemic negatively. Examples include: framing China as culpable for a coverup, claiming China is responsible for the worldwide spread of the virus, depicting China’s lockdowns as brutal and inhumane, and of course, spreading the laboratory leak theory, which has never been taken seriously by credible biomedical experts.
It seemed that by 2023, the dismay and struggle of the Covid-19 pandemic was finally over, as even China forfeited its “zero-Covid” policy and moved on with life as usual. Not so, says the US as it begins weaponizing the lab leak theory yet again, which is quickly circulated and endorsed by the mainstream media. Ironically, the same media have very little to say about the fallout of the environmental disaster in Ohio, or the credible report that the Nord Stream pipelines were actively sabotaged by the United States.
Of course, it is no coincidence that these events are, as it happens, the precise reason for the coordinated re-emergence of the laboratory leak theory. Following the drama and anti-China hysteria promulgated by the recent “spy balloon” incident, Chinese state media and commentators have hit back at the US by relentlessly criticizing the Ohio disaster, using that as a public opinion offensive of their own. In addition to that, Beijing has tried to influence the direction of the Ukraine war by proposing a peace plan of its own, one which does not support Washington’s objectives in the country, calls for compromise, and has subsequently been dismissed by US officials.
What does the US do to respond to this? It reignites the lab leak theory to distract the conversation. There’s no evidence provided to the public, but the sensational statements by American officials never fail to be amplified by the media, with the result being whipped-up public outrage against China. Then the US moves from one anti-China “meme” to the next. It is because of this constant public opinion manipulation that it has become impossible for Washington and Beijing to normalize and stabilize their ties, which is leading to a vicious circle and becoming inherently dangerous.
In conclusion, the concerted re-emergence of this theory is critical evidence of how the US manipulates global discourse and public opinion. In this particular scenario, however, the US is not using the lab leak theory to pursue any specific policy goals, such as manufacturing consent for sanctions, but is doing so as a tit-for-tat distraction against China’s focus on the Ohio chemical disaster. Whether this tactic will work is up for debate. The world has had enough of the Covid blame game, and, without some hard evidence, the lab leak theory will never be as effective a narrative tool as it once was.
The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.