-- Some observers worry that Washington is trying to turn the scientific process into power politics and disinformation warfare aimed at containing China's development.
-- Many experts fret that the international public health agency is yielding to political pressure from the United States and some other countries trying to discredit the findings of the first-phase origin-tracing probe.
-- With more scientists speaking out against politicizing the origin-tracing of COVID-19, it has dawned on many that the lab-leak theory is not only flawed, but typical of Washington's maneuvering to drag other countries into political quagmires.
BEIJING, July 30 (Xinhua) -- The ongoing origin-tracing of SARS-CoV-2, the severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus behind the still raging COVID-19 pandemic, has for long suffered great political pressure from the United States and some other countries.
Concerns are mounting that the probe, which should be left to scientists, has been hijacked by those countries for a political game to cover up their own failures to address the public health crisis.
Some observers also worry that Washington is trying to turn the scientific process into power politics and disinformation warfare aimed at containing China's development.
In a recent global poll conducted by the CGTN Think Tank, an affiliate of China Global Television Network (CGTN), 80 percent of the surveyed believe the issue of COVID-19 origin-tracing has been politicized.
The United States, which many analysts have found is becoming increasingly anxious about its hegemonic power and belligerent in its China policy, is the major driving force in politicizing the probe.
In early 2020, at the initial stage of the pandemic, with China sharing valuable information with the world in a timely manner and acting swiftly and responsibly to limit the spread of COVID-19, the White House repeatedly praised China for its effective response.
However, as infections and deaths surged in the United States, putting then President Donald Trump and his administration under increasing scrutiny and criticism, Washington's stance took a U-turn.
Trump, who was seeking re-election that year, began to resort to racist and xenophobic rhetoric to galvanize his supporters and shift blame. He went so far as to pull the United States out of the World Health Organization (WHO).
A full-blown scapegoating campaign against China ensued, with Trump and other senior officials hyping lab-leak and other unsubstantiated theories in disregard of common sense and even the conclusion of U.S. intelligence agencies.
Though the United States rejoined the WHO after Joe Biden took office early this year, it has continued to stoke up the lab-leak hypothesis for political purposes.
In a jarring statement in May that confounded scientists across the world, Biden ordered the U.S. intelligence community to produce a report on the origin of COVID-19 within 90 days.
Photo taken on March 30, 2021 shows an exterior view of the World Health Organization (WHO) headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland. (Xinhua/Chen Junxia)
Matthew Kavanagh, director of the Global Health Policy & Politics Initiative at Georgetown University, pointed out that if the aim of Biden's report was finding a scientific explanation of the COVID-19 origin, he would have tasked health institutes instead of intelligence agencies.
"This tells us that this is a political and an intelligence story: not a story mostly about science," Kavanagh recently told U.S. magazine Rolling Stone.
"And so we should understand the picture in that sense, and not be naive about it," Kavanagh added. "We're in a place where politics is driving people's scientific understanding in a dangerous way."
SCIENTISTS UNDER PRESSURE
After a 28-day joint origin-tracing study earlier this year by over 30 experts from the WHO and China in Wuhan, the central Chinese city where the disease was first reported, the WHO is now mulling over how to proceed with the next phase.
Many experts fret that the international public health agency is yielding to political pressure from the United States and some other countries trying to discredit the findings of the first-phase probe.
The Wuhan mission ended with a report concluding that transmission of the coronavirus through an intermediate host is the most likely scenario and that a laboratory incident is "extremely unlikely."
Experts attend a WHO-China joint origin-tracing study press conference held in Wuhan, central China's Hubei Province, Feb. 9, 2021 shows. (Xinhua/Cheng Min)
That finding clearly does not mesh with Washington's politically charged narrative. Immediately following the release of the report, the United States and some of its allies put out a statement to express so-called "shared concern."
Earlier this month, the WHO claimed that it was "premature" to dismiss the lab leak theory, a jaw-dropping step back from its previous position.
"The findings of the WHO-led investigation in Wuhan into the origins of COVID-19 were quickly discredited because they didn't fit the U.S. narrative," noted Tom Fowdy, a British political and international relations analyst with a primary focus on East Asia.
"Relentless pressure from the U.S. has caused the World Health Organization to suggest a second probe into the origin of COVID, focusing on Chinese labs," he said in an article recently published by RT, a Russian news network.
Meanwhile, in the United States, scientists who had thrown cold water on the lab-leak theory and insisted on speaking in scientific terms have also faced enormous pressure from fact-twisting politicians and offensive trolling on social media sites.
Kristian Andersen, a professor of immunology and microbiology at Scripps Research, a U.S. medical study facility, deleted his Twitter account in June after receiving vicious online attacks following the release of email exchanges between him and White House Chief Medical Advisor Anthony Fauci, also a frequent target of U.S. conservatives throughout the pandemic.
In late January 2020, Andersen once wrote to Fauci, a top U.S. infectious disease expert, that he thought some of SARS-CoV-2's features "(potentially) look engineered." Several weeks later, he published a paper in Nature Medicine concluding that the virus was not created in a lab or "purposefully manipulated."
During an interview with U.S. news magazine Newsweek this May, the immunologist defended the findings of his paper, stressing that the lab-leak idea was "based purely on speculation" and that he had not found any "credible evidence" to back it up.
With more scientists speaking out against politicizing the origin-tracing of COVID-19, it has dawned on many that the lab-leak theory is not only flawed, but typical of Washington's maneuvering to drag other countries into political quagmires.
Photo taken on April 13, 2021 shows the White House in Washington, D.C., the United States. (Photo by Shen Ting/Xinhua)
Ethan Siegel, a U.S. science writer, pointed out in a June blog that there has been a tremendous push in the United States -- largely among politicians -- over the past few weeks to bring "an idea that has largely been circulating among conspiracy theorists, the idea of a lab leak origin for the virus, into the mainstream."
The hypothesis has recently regained steam after a Wall Street Journal story cited a so-called "previously undisclosed U.S. intelligence report" to conjure up a far-fetched connection between some "sick staff" of a Wuhan lab and the COVID-19 outbreak.
The first writer of the story is discredited U.S. reporter Michael Gordon, who wrote either misleading or downright inaccurate articles about Iraq's alleged possession of weapons of mass destruction in the run-up to the 2003 invasion.
Only three days after the story's publication, Biden announced his order to the U.S. intelligence community.
This smells of the "classic disinformation two-step" summed up by U.S. reporters Amy Goodman and David Goodman. They pointed out in 2004 that the White House would first leak unsubstantiated or even fabricated information to a U.S. media outlet and then masquerade behind the credibility of the media after it published a bombshell story.
"This is nothing but a stupid and unhelpful political move to cover up the United States' attempt to contain China's rise," Zhao Lijian, a spokesperson for the Chinese Foreign Ministry, said earlier this week.
"A solemn reminder to the U.S. side: In the face of facts, science and justice, political manipulation will gain no support and is doomed to fail," he added. (Video reporters: Zhu Yubo, Yu Lizhen, Gong Ruohan, Pablo Giuliano, Jiang Chao, Ali Jaswal, Tariq Hameed, Yang Yiran, Yu Fuqing; Video editor: Hong Liang)■