CHINA / SOCIETY
Republican COVID-19 origins report serves US's hybrid war on China
Published: Aug 04, 2021 07:24 PM
Photo taken on July 7, 2021 shows the US Capitol building in Washington, D.C., the United States. The highly transmissible Delta variant has overtaken the Alpha variant to become the dominant variant in the United States, according to new estimates from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).(Photo:Xinhua)

Photo taken on July 7, 2021 shows the US Capitol building in Washington, D.C., the United States. The highly transmissible Delta variant has overtaken the Alpha variant to become the dominant variant in the United States, according to new estimates from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).(Photo:Xinhua)


 
The Republicans' COVID-19 origins report simply repeated a slew of discredited conspiracy theories about the Wuhan Institute of Virology, such as it is allegedly responsible for secretly researching on biological weapons and covering up an accidental outbreak thereof. There's nothing new in this so-called "report." Its only practical purpose is to serve as a list of the most popular falsehoods that have been shared since the pandemic was declared approximately one and a half years ago. Nevertheless, it might still be exploited for devious ends connected to the US's hybrid war on China.

The timing of the latest release might be more than coincidental. US President Joe Biden ordered the Intelligence Community to produce a report on this topic within 90 days. That deadline is set to expire later this month. It's unclear exactly what they'll conclude and whether their findings will be scientifically accurate or not, but the Republican report could play a role in shaping the overall narrative about this sensitive subject. 

If the US spy agencies respect the scientific findings thus far and agree to dismiss the lab leak conspiracy theory, then the Republicans' report can be seen as a preemptive partisan move to influence next year's midterms.

The Republicans might then predictably lobby even more aggressively for sanctions and other illegal measures against China on that pretext. Should the Intelligence Community happen to go along with that conspiracy theory, however, then the Republicans' report could result in there being bipartisan consensus for those very same measures. 

The US Navy Ship (USNS) Comfort docks at Pier 90 in New York, the United States, on March 30, 2020. The US Navy Ship (USNS) Comfort arrived in New York City on Monday, bringing 1,000 hospital beds to help relieve the city's overwhelmed hospital system amid COVID-19 pandemic. (Photo by Guang Yu/Xinhua)

The US Navy Ship (USNS) Comfort docks at Pier 90 in New York, the United States, on March 30, 2020. The US Navy Ship (USNS) Comfort arrived in New York City on Monday, bringing 1,000 hospital beds to help relieve the city's overwhelmed hospital system amid COVID-19 pandemic. (Photo by Guang Yu/Xinhua)


 
Either way, it might end up playing a role in escalating US-China tensions. At the very least, it'll serve as a lightning rod of controversy ahead of next year's midterms intended to galvanize the opposition's base. After all, there was no other real reason why they should carry out their own study into this subject.

The US Intelligence Community has all the information that it needs to reach an objective conclusion in line with existing scientific findings on the matter if it has the political will to do so, which remains to be seen. There's no way that opposition lawmakers would have access to more information than they do. The very fact that the Republicans' report was commissioned in the first place was meant to put pressure on the Intelligence Community to conform with the opposition's embrace of the lab leak conspiracy theory and signal confused voters that the federal government's conclusions might be politicized even though it's theirs that are.

The Republicans politicized the COVID-19 pandemic before the Democrats did after former US President Donald Trump started blaming China for the outbreak. The Democrats also politicized the pandemic, but at first only in a domestic context in order to give themselves an edge ahead of last year's presidential elections. It was only after coming to power that they began flirting with the Republicans' conspiracy theory, perhaps because it found resonance among confused voters who clung to that false narrative for whatever personal reasons. Going against it might be bad for the Democrats' re-election prospects, according to some calculations.

Most people have already made up their mind by now about what to believe in, so it's unlikely that the Republicans' or Intelligence Community's reports will change what most Americans think. Rather, all that they do is attempt to legitimize certain interpretations from their respective positions of authority. With that in mind, the Republicans' report begins to be seen as even more manipulative than some might have thought at first glance. As was explained, there's no way that they have more information than the US spy agencies. All that the opposition wanted to do was grandstand and play to some voters' demagogic delusions.

It can only be hoped that the US Intelligence Community does the right thing by sticking with the scientific facts, distancing itself from irresponsible conspiracy theories, and ultimately debunking the Republicans' COVID-19 origins report. Nevertheless, that scenario can't be taken for granted considering how politicized the entire pandemic has already become, especially as a pretext for escalating the US's hybrid war on China. 

For that reason, the Intelligence Community might pay some degree of credence to the Republicans' politicized conclusions, both for partisan reasons ahead of next year's midterms and also strategic ones vis-a-vis China.

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