This is about what we’d expect from a nation with something to hide.
According to the New York Times, China is blocking the World Health Organization (WHO) from investigating the origins of the coronavirus that has swept across the world over the last year. After many months of claiming their full cooperation with world health authorities in investigating how the coronavirus was able to become the threat to the planet that it became, it turns out the Chinese have been stonewalling any independent investigation.
This is critical because finding the origin of the virus may help scientists understand how it originally spread and how to prevent the next pandemic.
The coronavirus was first reported to have originated at an animal market in Wuhan, China, however numerous observers have already questioned this account of the virus’s origins. Among other issues, the original host animal—a species of bat—was not sold at the particular animal market, and the city of Wuhan is home to virology labs where coronaviruses were studied.
While an investigation into the origins of the coronavirus could help prevent future pandemics, China is not allowing the W.H.O. to conduct an independent probe of the matter, according to internal documents and interviews by the Times.
It’s a stretch to believe that China deliberately let loose a dangerous pathogen on the world, especially when they had no vaccine, cure, or treatment for the disease. Far more likely is an accidental release from a lab either due to incompetence, stupidity, or both.
Regardless, it appears that the Chinese government believes that the truth would damage their reputation just as they’re beginning to flex their economic and military muscle to try and assume the position as the world’s number one superpower.
“It was an absolute whitewash,” Lawrence O. Gostin, a professor of global health law at Georgetown University, told the Times regarding the agency’s investigation. “But the answer was, that was the best they could negotiate with Xi Jinping.”
The Trump administration has reacted furiously to China’s failure to prevent the coronavirus from spreading. President Trump has moved to cut U.S. funding to the W.H.O., blaming the organization for parroting Chinese propaganda regarding the country’s response.
The coronavirus has killed at least 1.2 million people worldwide and sickened over 46 million, with actual numbers for the sick and dead likely higher due to underreporting.
There should be a question of just how hard the WHO pressed China to open the books and let the inspectors do their jobs. The chumminess of WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom and China’s President Xi Jinping has been well documented and in this instance, it may be a case of the WHO not wanting to know too much.
Either way, China is looking more and more guilty, in the eyes of at least some nations, of hiding something they think would be devastating to their international reputation. As it is now, most of the rest of the world can pretend that China is cooperating and there’s no reason for an in-depth investigation.