Why isn’t the US forthcoming on COVID-19 origins?
Published: Jan 20, 2023 07:16 PM
Play Dirty. Illustration: Liu Rui/GT

Play Dirty. Illustration: Liu Rui/GT

Have you ever tried the social deduction game Mafia, or Werewolf? Basically, it is about the "mafia" - the bad guys - taking down the good guys without exposing their identity. The innocent, to protect themselves, must look really hard for signs that give the undercover mafia player away and blow their cover as early as possible.

And no, I'm not talking about Mafia as an entertainment idea for the Spring Festival.

I'm talking about it because, as we speak, a handful of US politicians are trying to play Mafia with us. Their hunt: Who gave the world COVID-19?

This has been a three-year old game imposed on an unsuspecting world, but some just don't get bored. Lately, US House Speaker Kevin McCarthy - yes, the first US House speaker candidate in 100 years to lose a vote from his own party - vowed to continue the probe under a new subcommittee.

As much as I disagree with his politics, I have to say this time around I am with him. The world needs answers, answers from the US, to this critical question before the next pandemic hits us while we are off guard.

Here are two signs that will help you find out the bad guys.

Check for desperation

Since the outbreak of the pandemic, China has maintained a consistent position on origin tracing: It does not believe in playing the blame game; it sees this as a scientific matter, and facts, evidence and research are needed. No naming names. No veiled allusions.

Across the Pacific, things are much more frantic. Wild conspiracies about the virus being man-made in a Chinese lab have been cobbled up, spun, and animatedly peddled by US politicians and media outlets. In this intensive propaganda campaign, the world has been bombarded with fiction, downright lies and incendiary insinuations.

The only question worth asking, amidst all the agitation, is why the desperation?

Check for evasiveness

In the game of Mafia, players can ask one another questions, to get information or just to see their reactions. Not being able to look you in the eye or giving straightforward answers is usually a red flag.

The Chinese reaction has been quite open. It has twice invited and hosted WHO experts for cooperation on origin tracing. It has shared more data and research findings on the subject than any other country. A 2021 China-WHO joint study report, drafted on the basis of field studies in China by experts from multiple countries, concluded that a lab leak of COVID-19 is "extremely unlikely."

The same can hardly be said for the US.

Three years into this game of theirs, the world is still left guessing about some intriguing questions.

What is being said about the connections between COVID-19 and the US' mysterious cases of vaping-related lung disease reported in September 2019 by The New York Times? After all, the chest X-ray images are highly identical to that of COVID-19 patients.

How does the US rule out the possibility that the COVID-19 virus came to life in one of its own highly advanced bio-labs? Aren't there samples of plague, tularemia, cholera, anthrax and other pathogens in the bio-labs the Pentagon runs in Ukraine? If these can be manufactured by their scientists, why not COVID-19?

Isn't it true that its Fort Detrick and bio-labs at the University of North Carolina are long-time leaders in coronavirus research and modification? Why are they still kept from international investigations despite repeated global calls?

In a game of Mafia, the killer wins if he is successful in deflecting attention and questions. But there are always signs that betray guilt. If the US has a clear conscience, it had better come forward with more convincing answers. The game it is playing is not one to be won, but to be ended as soon as possible, because at stake are lives - the lives of our loved ones and all those not yet born.

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