China’s communist leaders have blood on their hands, so say U.S. hawks. Chinaphobes in Congress and a battalion of media pundits are demanding compensation from Beijing for the spiraling death toll and economic destruction incurred by the United States.
Already U.S. states have begun litigation to sue China. Rightwing think-tanks like the Hudson Institute are projecting that China is liable to pay out trillions of dollars for American losses over the Covid-19 pandemic.
The chorus of “Yellow Peril” fever goes beyond financial retribution right up to creating a casus belli against China. It is no coincidence that U.S. warships have stepped up provocative maneuvers in the South China Sea this week.
President Donald Trump and his top envoy Mike Pompeo have weighed in to point the finger at China for pandemic mayhem hitting the U.S. China is being set up as the scapegoat to “explain” why the supposedly most powerful nation in the world has been left so ravaged by a virus.
The “blame China” narrative turns on two sub-plots. It is claimed in U.S. media that the Chinese authorities knew a lot more than they let on they did about the potential harm from the epidemic when it first emerged in the city of Wuhan in December. The insinuation is that China (and the World Health Organization) engaged in a cover-up about the scale of the disease, thereby putting other nations in danger through misinformation.
The second sub-plot in the “blame China” agenda is that a Chinese virology laboratory leaked out the deadly virus, either by accident or as part of biowarfare program. That again implies a China cover-up. Both sub-plots fit the slogan taken up by Trump supporters and anti-China hawks more generally: “China Lied, People Died”.
In both cases, however, it is more than plausible that the media agitation is information warfare to scapegoat China. What is happening here this: a disastrous current situation in America is being retrospectively “explained” with false U.S. intelligence claims that seek to shift blame on to China, and, crucially, distract from questions about inherent systematic failure in Washington.
On the “China knew more but didn’t let on” claim, the primer for this theme came from an ABC report published on April 9. It quotes anonymous U.S. sources as saying that the Pentagon’s disease experts were briefing the White House and senior national security officials about a new contagion sweeping through China’s Wuhan region as far back as November.
As ABC reported with convenient sinister implication: “Those analyses said China’s leadership knew the epidemic was out of control even as it kept such crucial information from foreign governments and public health agencies.”
The basic problem is “those analyses” referred to by ABC’s anonymous sources are only alleged to have happened. Where’s the evidence, transcripts, memos and so on? An open mind should ask the question: was such an intel assessment even formulated?
ABC’s report took off in the pundit-sphere even though it updated its report with a disclaimer from the Pentagon denying that any such assessment existed. Fair enough, maybe the Pentagon is mischievously disowning. There again, more likely, ABC is being played by its anonymous sources to concoct an anti-China narrative?
A few other contradictions are the following: Mark Esper, the Pentagon chief, subsequently told ABC in an interview that he didn’t know anything about any such alleged contagion warning which he had supposedly received back in November or December. Esper’s cack-handed tone suggests he simply did not receive any such briefing, rather than any sort of smart sophistry on his part.
Furthermore, if the alleged Pentagon intelligence warning of a new contagion was presumably circulated in Presidential Daily Briefs, why was Trump voicing complacency about the potential pandemic during January and February? Indeed, why was Trump on record for praising China’s efforts at controlling the outbreak during this crucial period if he had been warned, allegedly, about the pandemic and the implied cover-up by Beijing?
Here’s another amusing cause for doubt. The Pentagon’s National Center for Medical Intelligence (NCMI) – the agency which purportedly warned of a contagion in China back in November – is officially tasked with detecting diseases which “pose serious risk to U.S. forces” in Asia and internationally. Strangely enough, the NCMI didn’t seem to know about outbreaks of COVID-19 onboard U.S. aircraft carriers deployed in Asia-Pacific which only came to light when navy crews publicly complained – yet we are led to believe the same agency knew what was going down in the obscure environs of Wuhan, even before Chinese authorities knew about the virus.
The second sub-plot is the alleged escape of the virus from the Wuhan Institute of Virology. The WIV is an internationally respected disease research center, which has partnered with French and other governments’ researchers. It operates at the highest international safety standards, yet somehow the WIV supposedly let a deadly virus escape. There is an added insinuation that the virus was man-made as part of a scientific program. President Trump said last week that Washington “was looking into it” and hinted that the release may even have been deliberate.
This is a shoddy conspiracy theory based on zero evidence, as documented by investigative journalist Max Blumenthal. The claim of “lab release” has been doing the rounds in dodgy rightwing U.S. media like the Washington Times for months. It has recently been elevated by equally dodgy reporting in the Washington Post that has all the hallmarks of an intel psy-ops.
The World Health Organization, as well as a vast body of scientific opinion, concludes that the Covid-19 virus (also known as SARS-CoV-2) is of natural origin emanating from wildlife, and that it is neither man-made nor manipulated in a lab. Indeed, many eminent scientists in the field of virology have condemned “conspiracy theories” claiming the virus came out of a lab as “pure baloney”.
What this all boils down to is an attempt by American anti-China hawks and elements of U.S. intelligence to retrospectively construct a narrative which lays the blame for the Covid-19 global crisis on Beijing. Given the abysmal failure of the U.S. to mitigate this crisis – exposing the deep flaws of its capitalistic society – the temptation is all the stronger for Washington to jump on the bandwagon scapegoating China.
Considering Trump’s re-election hopes are at stake, it is not surprising he is clambering into the driving seat of this bandwagon.
But concocting intel to fit a conclusion is a precarious pursuit. It has disturbing resonance with the Iraqi WMD intel manufacturing and media indulgence which led to disastrous war.
Is U.S. power so shameless that it would prefer war rather than face public accountability for its own criminal complacency and neglect? You better believe it.