The Corner


Why Would Anybody Give Beijing the Benefit of the Doubt?

Chinese leader Xi Jinping, with a little friend in front of his desk.

I try not to reflexively suspect the motives of everyone who disagrees with me – emphasis on try, not succeed – but as I encounter arguments that take all of the Chinese government’s denials at face value, and dismiss the considerable circumstantial evidence for a lab leak as just a series of coincidences… I find the mentality and approach pretty mind-boggling.

It’s like, “hey, the world’s most powerful authoritarian regime, known for its secrecy, power grabs, disregard of international norms and laws, systematic human rights abuses and genocide, and shameless disregard for life and limb in other countries — hey, watch out for those falling rockets! — might not be getting the benefit of the doubt in the face of these accusations. Time for me to put on my Perry Mason suit and not let the good name of Xi Jinping get besmirched.”

At minimum, China chose to locate a BSL-4 biolab doing gain-of-function research on the world’s biggest collection of bat viruses in the middle of a big city trade-and-transport hub, and then when a new viral infection broke out in the city, spent three to six weeks insisting to the world the virus wasn’t contagious and everything was under control. Anyone with a lick of sense would look at this situation and say, “wait, even if the COVID-19 pandemic wasn’t triggered by a lab leak, the Wuhan Institute of Virology has been juggling nitroglycerin this whole time, and we had better shut down that lab and relocate that research to someplace in the middle of the Gobi Desert, so that if Mao forbid, we ever have a leak, it spreads a lot slower.” Instead, the Chinese government’s response is to argue that the WIV deserves the Nobel Prize for Medicine.

Just what is the downside of large-scale lasting international scrutiny of the viral research going on in the WIV and Wuhan Centers for Disease Control?


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