Biden review puts world one step closer to finding out what happened in Wuhan
28 May 2021|

President Joe Biden’s statement this week of an ‘investigation into the origins of Covid-19’ shows that the US intelligence community is making progress towards uncovering whether the virus was released because of a ‘laboratory accident’ or ‘from human contact with an infected animal’.

Biden tells us his intelligence agencies agree these are the ‘two likely scenarios’ with one agency leaning to the lab accident and two towards the pangolin-bites-man theory, while the others ‘do not believe there is sufficient information to assess one to be more likely than the other’.

It’s no small thing to get all 18 American intelligence agencies agreeing that the laboratory accident scenario was a likely cause of the pandemic. The agencies have clearly made progress since the first ‘intelligence community statement on origins of Covid-19’, released in April 2020, which found that the virus ‘was not manmade or genetically modified’ but could do no more than promise to ‘rigorously examine emerging information’ about the origins of Covid-19.

Biden has given his intelligence system 90 days to ‘bring us closer to a definitive conclusion’. I’ll speculate here that the administration thinks a conclusion can made. Why set up the intelligence agencies to fail?

The president also said that the further inquiry would include asking ‘specific questions for China’. It is astonishing that it has taken 15 months before a US administration decided to put Beijing on the spot with some direct questions. In effect Xi Jinping is on 90 days’ notice for his regime to put aside the bluster and make its own case about the ‘two likely scenarios’.

I’m with the courageous US intelligence agency that is leaning to the ‘laboratory accident scenario’. Here’s why.

First, we know that China has long had an interest in developing biological and chemical weapons. The US State Department made that assessment public years ago.

Second, we know that Chinese military personal and scientists have written studies on how to fight wars with biological agents. The Australian’s Sharri Markson has reported extensively on this. It’s true that there is a huge volume of Chinese military writing which does not necessarily represent communist party ‘policy’, but it’s significant that specialists inside Chinese military science are writing on this subject.

Third, we know that the Wuhan Institute of Virology is designed to be a very secure research facility and prior to 2019 was working on coronaviruses, including on so-called ‘gain of function’ research about how to make a virus more virulent.

The much-discredited joint World Health Organization–China study into the origin of the pandemic said that the strain of coronavirus closest in genetic makeup (in fact 96.2% identical) to the virus that causes Covid-19 was ‘detected in bat anal swabs [that] have been sequenced at the Wuhan Institute of Virology’.

Fourth, we know that serious concerns existed about security at the WIV. In late 2017, the US embassy in Beijing flagged these worries in a cable reporting there was ‘a serious shortage of appropriately trained technicians and investigators needed to safely operate this high-containment laboratory’. The embassy was so worried that it wanted Washington to help China improve the laboratory’s biosecurity. The proposal was never acted on.

Fifth, we know that the WIV was presenting itself as a civilian institution, but a US intelligence judgement reported by then secretary of state Mike Pompeo in January 2021 was that ‘the WIV has engaged in classified research, including laboratory animal experiments, on behalf of the Chinese military since at least 2017.’

Sixth, a point highlighted in the WHO–China study, the WIV-linked Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention laboratory moved on 2 December 2019 to a new location near the Huanan wet market. The study dryly states ‘such moves can be disruptive for the operations of any laboratory.’

The seventh point is that it seems at least three workers at the WIV fell ill with Covid-19-like symptoms some time before the first publicly known cases emerged in December 2019. This was mentioned by Pompeo in January and is now being bolstered, according to the New York Times, with corroborating information from non-US sources.

Finally, there is the remarkable Chinese Communist Party cover-up of the whole issue: The fatuous claims that Covid-19 was planted by US military personnel visiting Wuhan or arrived on frozen salmon; the refusal to hand over actual samples of the original virus as opposed to its genomic sequence; the refusal to grant access to the WIV until the tightly stage-managed WHO–China study visit on 3 February 2021; the over-the-top attempts to prevent international access to research the virus; and the hysterical denunciation of Australia’s request for a credible international examination.

It’s almost as though Xi has something to hide.

Put these elements together and it becomes clear that China was working on coronaviruses, was interested in biological weapons, had thought about how to fight with them and had sufficiently shoddy processes to make the ‘laboratory accident scenario’ a real possibility.

Something else we should be clear about is that once the virus was released, the CCP instantly weaponised its use. It allowed international flights out of Wuhan for weeks while countries dithered about closing borders.

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi told his Australian counterpart Marise Payne on 30 January last year that ‘given the current situation, the epidemic is generally preventable, controllable, and curable’. This was at precisely the time China was stripping stocks of medical equipment and protective gear from Australia and other democracies.

Again, to speculate: I suspect Biden has a clear sense of what his intelligence review will find. We are getting closer to uncovering the reality of what happened in Wuhan. The truth could force a rethink about how the democratic world deals with China and, domestically, lay a major blow on Xi’s legitimacy as the people’s hero in the struggle against Covid-19.