Washington's 'blame China initiative' faces setback
From 'enormous evidence' to 'no certainty,' Pompeo's lab theory undercuts US credibility
Published: May 07, 2020 07:57 PM

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo leaves a news conference with President Donald Trump following the daily coronavirus task force briefing in the Brady Press Briefing Room at the White House on April 08 in Washington, DC. Photo: AFP

Unable to provide the "enormous evidence" he apparently made up to sustain his conspiracy theory, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Wednesday finally conceded that he couldn't be certain that the coronavirus originated from a Wuhan lab. 

Although Pompeo has not let go of his lab claim, the change in phrasing is seen as a sign of a setback for the Trump administration's "blame China initiative" as many of its claims run counter not only to scientific evidence but also common sense. 

Analysts said US politicians won't cease their "blame game" and will find other ways to fire "political bullets" at China to save the election. They warned that US credibility at home and abroad have been severely undercut by this administration's flip-flop accusations, and a further finger pointing farce against China will only make Washington look like a fool in front of the world.

On Wednesday, Pompeo said the US is uncertain about the origin of the coronavirus pandemic, despite claiming just three days ago there was "enormous evidence" the virus originated in a Chinese lab. But he insisted there was no contradiction between his position and comments by other senior US officials who have cast doubt on his theory.

His retraction came after Trump told The New York Post on Monday that he meant the virus "got out" of Wuhan, not the lab specifically, which is a shift from what he said a few days earlier - that he had evidence the Wuhan Institute of Virology was the origin of the virus. 

The change of tone means the Trump administration's orchestrated "blame China" propaganda campaign was severely set back in the face of mounting scientific evidence, Chinese analysts said, who also noted that it will be even harder for the US to push forward its plan to pressure China to compensate for US losses during the pandemic. 

Hua Chunying, a spokesperson of China's Foreign Ministry, spent more than 10 minutes at a Thursday press conference responding to Pompeo's recent "blame China" rhetoric, saying that the Secretary of State is full of lies. 

Hua challenged Pompeo to present evidence that the virus originated from Wuhan lab. "If not, is the evidence still in incubation?" Hua stressed that the Wuhan P4 lab is a cooperative project of China and France. Scientists from the lab underwent training in the US and France, and is examined by a third party ever year. 

The latest contradiction also came from UK Health Secretary Matt Hancock who said the UK government has not seen any evidence to suggest that COVID-19 is man-made. 

Previously, the Five Eyes network of intelligence agencies and infectious disease expert Dr. Anthony Fauci also debunked the claim.

This clearly mirrors how US politicians twist facts to achieve their political agenda. Trump blamed China and the Wuhan lab to divert attention from his missteps in handling the pandemic, while Pompeo followed him, Shen Yi, a professor of international politics at Fudan University in Shanghai, told the Global Times. 

Shen said that although Trump and Pompeo's Wuhan lab claim is doomed, they will still attack China and accuse it as the origin of the coronavirus. 

Pompeo on Wednesday renewed his aggressive criticism of China, blaming it for the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people from the coronavirus and demanding again that it share information about the outbreak.

"Mr. Pompeo believes blaming China could be his new target after the Wuhan lab conspiracy failed. But he should watch out, for this new propaganda could also be attacked by scientific evidence and put him in a more awkward position," Shen said. 

Mounting evidence and more scientists have already suggested the virus may have appeared earlier than we expected in Europe and the US. WHO spokesperson Christian Lindmeier said on Tuesday that it was "not surprising" that a report of COVID-19 had emerged in December in France, earlier than it was thought to have spread there, saying more reports of early cases were possible.

As scientists look into ways to stop or prevent COVID-19, other researchers have found evidence the disease caused by the new coronavirus was in the US weeks before cases were reported, CNN reported Wednesday.

Shen also pointed out the Trump administration's credibility was already undercut by their constant hedging of statements, and "further propaganda failure would only make them a fool to the world."

Pompeo's hedging of a previous statement also sparked criticism back home with some netizens saying on Twitter: "Sorry Mikey, no one believes anything from this administration anymore," and the "US is relying on Pompeo, intelligence, politics to fight the pandemic, rather Fauci, virologist, and scientists."

Hua asked the US government: how many truths were earthed in the US? Who is putting the Americans' lives at risk? Are 60,000 deaths sufficient to wake US politicians' consciousness up? Are US politicians using their morality and American people's lives for personal political benefits? 

"We hope US politicians indulging in the blame game could wake up and focus on virus prevention and saving more American lives," Hua said. 

"The US blame game would only stop when the number of deaths, maybe when it surpasses 100,000, exasperate and shock Americans. Then they will strongly oppose the Trump administration's hypocrisy," Shen said.