COVID-19 origin report ‘inconclusive,’ but China is still angry about it

china coronavirus origin report
Photo via Vin Crosbie/Flickr (CC BY-ND 2.0)

A long-awaited U.S. intelligence report on the origin of the novel coronavirus was inconclusive, but Chinese officials still reacted in anger to the published report. 

According to the Washington Posts initial article on the report, two senior officials with President Joe’s Biden administration revealed the report was shared on Aug. 24. The report could not determine “whether the pathogen jumped from an animal to a human as part of a natural process, or escaped from a lab in central China.” 

Officials also shared that “the intelligence community will seek within days to declassify elements of the report for potential public release.” 

The review involved multiple agencies, but the Post’s article pointed out that the real question about the origin of the coronavirus, which ultimately resulted in a global pandemic, might be better solved by scientists than spies. 

One official admitted that the intelligence community is “not necessarily best equipped to solve this problem.” Intel agents are “positioned to collect on a range of foreign actors,” but they are not necessarily, as the article put noted, “poised to dive into global health data sets.” 

Biden, when he first connected with the Office of the Director of National Intelligence back in July, noted, “You’re going to have to increase your ranks with people with significant scientific capacity relative to pathogens.” 

The Guardian, in its coverage, noted that the animal vs. lab question at the heart of the COVID origin debate has some political attachments.

“The former president Donald Trump and his aides had helped fuel the lab-leak theory amid intense criticism over their administration’s handling of the world’s biggest outbreak,” the article observed, “pointing the finger at Beijing, which strongly denies the hypothesis.” 

Citing the Wall Street Journal’s coverage, the Guardian article went on note that the Chinese government’s involvement is complicating the investigation. As noted by a source, “If China’s not going to give access to certain datasets, you’re never really going to know.” 

On Aug. 25, Chinese officials spoke out over the inconclusive report, with Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin accusing the U.S. of using COVID origin tracing to suppress other countries, according to the Washington Post’s account. He went on to label the report as political instead of scientific, bristling at U.S. allegations that China has “obstructed international efforts to get information about the earliest days of the pandemic.” 

“The United States says it lacks information from China,” Wang said in a press conference addressing the COVID-19 origin report. “I can tell the United States that this is just an excuse to cover up the failure of its intelligence in origin tracing.”

China’s ambassador to the United Nations, Chen Xu, sent a letter on Aug. 22 to World Health Organization Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, contending that it’s actually a U.S. military lab — specifically, at Fort Detrick in Maryland — that should be under investigation. The letter was accompanied by a petition, reportedly signed by 25 million Chinese citizens, requesting an investigation of the lab.

Sources: Washington Post [1], [2], Guardian, Wall Street Journal

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