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As the WHO investigated coronavirus origins in China, Beijing pushed a conspiracy about the US

February 18, 2021. Summarized by summa-bot.

Compression ratio: 24%. 2 min read.

When World Health Organization investigators wrapped up their work examining the origins of the coronavirus in Wuhan this month, Chinese officials were clear where they felt the WHO should look next.

But for months now, China has been advancing alternative theories for how the coronavirus first emerged, ones that would obviate any blame officials in Wuhan may bear for not reacting quickly enough to the initial outbreak in that city in late 2019, during which they are accused of dragging their feet as evidence of human-to-human spread became clear and the virus ran rampant.

One Chinese theory in particular emerged early on in the pandemic but gained significant traction in recent weeks, as the WHO investigation and new outbreaks of the coronavirus in China renewed attention both internally and externally on the government's alleged failures.

In many ways, this theory is the mirror image of a conspiracy about China alleging that the virus might have emerged -- either intentionally or by mistake -- from a lab in Wuhan focused on researching deadly pathogens.

At the same time, however, Zeng, the Chinese CDC official, was advancing just such a hypothesis, not about the Wuhan lab, but Fort Detrick, a US Army biomedical research laboratory in Maryland.

According to a CNN investigation, growing scrutiny of the lab in early 2020, along with criticism of China's initial handling of the pandemic, appears to have prompted the Communist Party's propaganda organs to adopt the Fort Detrick conspiracy as a potential counter, a disinformation mirror to deflect criticism both legitimate and groundless.

Throughout March and April, reports in Chinese state media began to focus on Fort Detrick, culminating in an article in the People's Daily, the official mouthpiece of the Communist Party, calling on the US government to give "clear answers to the world" about the USAMRIID lab.

The public investigation clearing the lab did not stop some claiming there were supposedly unanswered questions about its workings, however, and in March 2020 a petition posted to the White House "We the People" website calling for an investigation was heavily promoted in Chinese media and on social platforms.

At a press conference on May 6, in response to a question about the Wuhan lab origin, Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying referenced reports about Fort Detrick, and called on the US government to "accept investigation and address these concerns," driving the theory fully into the mainstream in China, with numerous outlets publishing reports on the alleged "cover-up," while a widely-shared video compared it to Unit 731.

As China largely recovered from the pandemic and returned to normal in the latter half of 2020, the Fort Detrick theory faded from consciousness somewhat, replaced by more plausible -- though highly contested -- claims that the virus might have been circulating in other countries and could have entered Wuhan via frozen food supply chains, a theory the WHO team offered a tacit endorsement of this month in a press conference, saying it was worth further investigation.

As it did, China's propaganda organs ramped up coverage of USAMRIID, with Hua, the foreign ministry spokeswoman, saying on January 18 that the US "should open the biological lab at Fort Detrick, give more transparency to issues such as its 200+ overseas bio-labs, and invite WHO experts to conduct origin tracing. "

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