China vs. COVID-19: Behind the U.S. slander campaign

WHO-China joint press conference in Wuhan, Feb. 9. Photo: Cheng Min / Xinhua

March 6 — As the Trump administration’s profits-first approach to COVID-19 was unfolding in the early months of the deadly pandemic, a slanderous campaign against China was rolled out. That campaign aimed to cover up the fact that the Communist Party of China led the world in its successful fight against the deadly virus, and helped many impoverished countries that have been abandoned by rich capitalist countries. 

The U.S. slanders dovetail with the general hostility and aggression emanating from Washington in the form of the “Pivot to Asia” — a revival of the Cold War directed against China. But this new body of slander has a distinct goal — to deflect from the horrors that have occurred in the U.S.

The anti-science, murderous, racist neglect in response to the pandemic led to the deaths of more than 500,000 people so far in the U.S. The disease has taken its heaviest toll on Black, Brown and Indigenous peoples. 

The Biden administration has presented its pandemic agenda to the world as a departure from all of that, promising an aggressive, science-based, full-court press against COVID-19. But nearly two months into the new administration, corporate interests are still a brake on progress against the virus at home, and the reactionary and counter-productive campaign against China is still being employed to distract from the crisis.

Trump pushes false theory

Early in January an investigative team of 10 scientists from the World Health Organization (WHO) arrived in China on a second trip to look into the origin of the COVID-19 virus. Searching for viral origins is a crucial component of epidemiology and it would be normal for these studies to continue for many years.

The U.S. has been pushing a false theory that the virus “leaked” from a laboratory in Wuhan, where the first cases were detected, and that there is a cover-up by China’s leadership. 

The “lab leak theory” was discredited in April 2020 after the first WHO trip. Leading scientists who study viral samples from animals cast doubt on the theory and agreed that it would have required a “remarkable series of coincidences and deviations from well-established experimental protocols,” according to an April 23 National Public Radio report

The consensus among scientists then was that the most logical theory of the origin of the virus is from bats, and that the virus jumped to humans, possibly through a second species, at an open-air market in Wuhan. 

Soon after these findings were made public, the Trump administration pulled U.S. funding from the WHO. That funding is the United Nations entity’s largest source of income. This was meant as a warning to the U.N. Although the funding has been reinstated under Biden, the message still stands. 

The U.S. doesn’t pay WHO for objectivity. It pays for information that serves its interests.

No official reports from January’s trip have been made public at the time of this writing. But initial comments that were made public seemed to indicate that the investigators were satisfied they had been provided needed information. 

“All questions asked and answered,” according to Peter Daszak, one of the team’s investigators and an expert on disease ecology. But without the official report having been issued, the Biden administration has begun propagating a different message altogether. 

Biden continues anti-China campaign

Another WHO team member, Dominic Dwyer of Australia, had complained that a request for raw data on the path of the disease in Wuhan during the beginning of the outbreak only resulted in summary data being turned over by China. His complaints were in spite of the fact that Chinese officials stated clearly that they quite simply could not compile the detailed information within the limited time that the WHO requested. 

Biden’s National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan has latched onto Dwyer’s remarks to imply a cover-up by China. “We have deep concerns about the way in which the early findings of the COVID-19 investigation were communicated and questions about the process used to reach them,” Sullivan said in a statement. 

Many corporate news media have picked up on and faithfully carried forward the White House tone.

WHO team members had reported that to the extent there was any tension during the investigation, it was par for the course, and there was a consensus among them that there was “enough good will that talks and studies will continue,” according to a Feb. 12 New York Times article.

Twitter messages between Daszak and a Danish team member lamented the distortion by the White House and the mainstream media of how team members felt about the trip. “It’s disappointing to spend time w/ journalists explaining key findings of our exhausting month-long work in China, to see our colleagues selectively misquoted to fit a narrative that was prescribed before the work began. Shame on you @nytimes!” tweeted Daszak to Thea Fischer.

Leading White House figures, including Secretary of State Anthony Blinken, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellin, and National Intelligence Director Avril Haines, have all made initial comments indicating that aggression against China will not diminish under Biden. Maybe the clearest sign of the path the White House is taking is the creation of the new role of “Indo-Pacific coordinator” for former Obama official Kurt Campbell — the architect of the “Pivot to Asia.”

It would be hard to point to a time in history when the misery wrought by capitalism has been more widespread. Tens of millions lost their livelihoods, hundreds of thousands have died, and most of it was unnecessary. 

China and other countries that are striving to build a socialist world, like Cuba and Vietnam, put human life first, and the proof is in the pudding. Fewer than 10,000 people have died from COVID-19 in those three countries combined. 

Although the pandemic is far from over, that reality is not something that any U.S. Cold War propaganda blitz can ever diminish or tarnish.