US’ COVID-19 report a trick to keep question open as grip to smear China: US professor
Published: Sep 02, 2021 06:25 PM
US President Joe Biden is seen through a curtain as he waits backstage before coming out to deliver remarks on the COVID-19 response and the vaccination program on August 23, in Washington, DC.
Photo: AFP

US President Joe Biden is seen through a curtain as he waits backstage before coming out to deliver remarks on the COVID-19 response and the vaccination program on August 23, in Washington, DC. Photo: AFP

Editor's Note:

A classified report delivered to US President Joe Biden by the US intelligence community has failed to reach consensus on the COVID-19 origins. This is a major setback of the US politicization of the issue. Is this the result the US government wanted? How will the US make a fuss about this issue in the future? Global Times (GT) reporter Wang Wenwen talked to Kenneth Hammond (Hammond), professor of East Asian and global history at New Mexico State University, about these issues.

GT: A classified report delivered to Biden by the US intelligence community had "inconclusive results" on the origins of the coronavirus. What do you think of the report's findings?

I think the open-ended, inconclusive report of the "intelligence community" is exactly what the Biden administration wanted. The lab leak theory can never be scientifically proven, so there was no way that was going to be the result of this effort. But that was understood from the beginning, and that was never the real goal. By issuing this vague and self-contradictory report the US government is able to keep the question open, to be able to say it can't be ruled out. And this is what Biden wants, to enable him to continue to use rumors and innuendo to criticize China and blame China for the pandemic.

GT: The US government directed the intelligence community to do this, but do they really have the scientific ability to do the origins-tracing report? Does this indicate that the US views origins-tracing as a political matter rather than a scientific one? Why did the report fail to give an answer the US has wanted?

The whole process of this investigation was political from the start. The "intelligence community" has no special scientific or technical competence to base their conclusions on. It's just a matter of re-hashing the reports and information gathered by others, or fed to them by sources with their own particular agendas. But again, establishing scientific verifiability was never the intention. This report is simply the latest phase of the long-term demonization of China, blaming China for the pandemic even though it was China that first identified the virus and shared the genome information as soon as it was available, and which implemented the most effective programs to contain and control the outbreak, saving probably millions of lives by mobilizing the whole people in a sustained public health campaign.

GT: As the pandemic situation in the US continues to worsen, what does the result of the report indicate for US global reputation?

The real issues before the American people, and people around the world, are not about unprovable allegations and speculation about the origins of the virus, but about how governments have handled the course of the pandemic. The lab leak theory and its repeated invocation by the Trump and Biden administrations and by both parties in Congress simply aim to divert the attention of people from the horrible devastation wrought by COVID-19 around the world. The incompetence of politicians, the profit-seeking of corporate interests, and the geopolitical maneuvering of wealthy countries to preserve the dominant place in global affairs, have all combined to make the pandemic a death warrant for millions worldwide. China's success in controlling the virus, in keeping deaths under 5,000 in a population of 1.4 billion, is a story American and other Western leaders don't want their people to understand. But as more and more evidence accumulates, as the comparative facts of what has happened in China in contrast to the catastrophic record of the US becomes better known, people in this country and around the world may well begin to question the very basis of American actions. The reputation of America is being eroded in many ways, not only with regard to COVID-19. But the disastrous impact of the pandemic here can only make American pretensions to further global leadership seem farcical and even destructive. The confusing and ambivalent contents of this latest report make the US look inept and bumbling, as other recent events do as well.

GT: Regarding the origins tracing, many clues are pointing to the US. More than 25 million people across the world are calling for an investigation into Fort Detrick. Do you think the US government will ever respond to such public opinion?

I do understand that many people in the world, and here in the US, are concerned about the kinds of biological and chemical warfare research which the American government has engaged in over recent decades, and that there are voices calling for investigation into Fort Detrick and other facilities. Given the finger-pointing blame game which US politicians have been playing, it is no surprise that people wonder about what goes on in America's many secret labs, not only at home but in remote locations around the world. I don't think it is likely that the US will undertake any serious investigation into the questions being raised, nor will American authorities allow any kind of outside, international inquiries into these labs or their activities.

GT: Without a definite conclusion, the US continued to smear China. The report accused China of hindering the global investigation, and Biden vowed to press on. How will the US make a fuss in the future with this issue? How will it affect China-US relations?

I think the prospects for the future in terms of the US using these origin questions as a way to demonize China are bleak. The deep shifts taking place in global economic and political affairs are seen by American elites as threatening their continuing dominance and their ability to enrich themselves at the expense of working people at home and around the world. So long as a zero-sum attitude of fear and hostility is the dominant mind-set of political and economic elites here, I fear that US-China relations will continue to be tense, and may deteriorate further. 

China bashing is a cheap and easy way for American politicians to score public relations points and to divert attention from their own failures and shortcomings. It would be better for everyone for the leaders in the US to seek ways to cooperate and collaborate with China in solving the many problems facing us all, from the pandemic to climate change to resource consumption, and to try to find a path to a shared better future. The words and actions of the Biden administration and Congressional leaders from both major parties do not suggest that things will move in such positive directions.