US coronavirus origins intelligence report: What's it and what's next?
Published: Sep 01, 2021 08:41 PM
Illustration: Liu Rui/GT

Illustration: Liu Rui/GT

Released last Friday, the US intelligence report on the origins of the COVID-19 pandemic has failed to present any new credible evidence and reach any firm conclusion, with merely "both hypotheses remain plausible": natural exposure to an infected animal and a laboratory-associated incident. 

That vague assessment should not come as a surprise to anybody. For such an intelligence report, lacking in independent and scientific corroboration, is fated not to produce anything meaningful and reliable. 

From the very beginning, Biden's decision to place the issue of origins-tracing in the hands of America's discredited and disgraced intelligence agencies with the absurd 90-day deadline is a politically-driven and anti-scientific act. The intelligence agencies are never the ones to solve a scientific question- or to provide the truth in any domain.

The report, not surprisingly, plays blame and shame game. It accuses China for rejecting transparency and withholding critical information on the origins of COVID-19, a callous disregard for the fact that China is the first country to cooperate with the WHO on global origins-tracing, and has twice received WHO experts for field research with completely open, transparent and cooperative attitude.

The report is also loaded with coerciveness. It urges "like-minded partners around the world" to exert more pressure on China, notwithstanding widespread opposition: over 80 countries have sent letters or notes to the WHO in support of the WHO-China joint report, opposing politicization of origins-tracing.

In a nutshell, this report serves no meaningful purpose in furthering the understanding of the sources of the coronavirus. Rather it will only hinder progress in the global fight against the COVID-19 pandemic. For the China hawks, the report leaves the door wide open to "dig up" more excuse to bolster "lab leak theory" - the only hope to assign blame on China. 

In a broader context, Washington's stance on origins-tracing is part of what it claims as "engaging China from a position of strength". It is entirely predictable that the US continues capitalizing on COVID-19 to gain the upper hand in its whole-of-government competition with China. 

So what is the US up to next step? It could be possible that the Biden Administration would go to the great lengths to launch another round of smear campaign against China, with potential sanctions imposed on Chinese health officials and scientists. Some US Congress members would push through "with greater urgency" the bills aimed to confront China. Anti-China forces worldwide would continue with the frivolous legal claims for "reparations" from China for COVID-19, though nearly all of them have already been rejected or withdrawn for lacking factual or legal basis. 

All those above could never intimidate China into backing down. One thing that US politicians should always bear in mind: China is no longer a country that can easily be bullied. Tricks played on Iraq or Syria will not work on China; nor arm-twisting will make China yield. More pressure on China will only make it more tough and unbending. 

Biden claims that responsible nations do not shirk responsibilities to the rest of the world. That is exactly what the US needs to do right now. The entire world is waiting to see whether and when the US would open up the Fort Detrick biolab and the over 200 overseas bases it owns or operates for biological experiments. 

If the Biden administration really "stands with science",  it would be wise to decouple public health and geopolitics and adopt a science-based origins-tracing approach. The test of the seriousness of its commitment is whether the US allows the WHO to conduct field studies in its territory.

The author is a commentator on international affairs, writing regularly for CGTN, Global Times, China Daily, etc. He can be reached at xinping604@gmail.com.