Name-calling seen as way of deflecting from mishandling of COVID-19 in US
Even as some US politicians continue to peddle the conspiracy theory that the coronavirus escaped from a Chinese laboratory in Wuhan－using a US State Department cable from 2018 as evidence for their speculation－globally renowned medical experts have trashed these claims, saying they run counter to science.
Political analysts see the allegation as a way of shifting blame from the politicians' mishandling of the pandemic in their own country.
The cable said the Wuhan Institute of Virology in China "has a serious shortage of appropriately trained technicians and investigators needed to safely operate this high-containment laboratory", The Washington Post reported.
Commenting on the cable, Tom Inglesby, the director of the Center for Health Security at Johns Hopkins University, emphasized that people should not read too much into the cable's claims, according to The Washington Post's report.
"It was written in January 2018, two years before when this pandemic is judged to have started, and a great deal of change can happen within a lab like this in two years time," he was quoted as saying.
"My judgment continues to be that (COVID-19) is consistent with a naturally occurring source," he said.
Ian Lipkin, the director of the Center for Infection and Immunity at Columbia University, told The Washington Post that there is no evidence to "support the idea that this (the virus) is released deliberately or inadvertently".
Studies on the origin of the virus have overwhelmingly shown that the novel coronavirus originated naturally rather than from any institution.
A study conducted at the US Food and Drug Administration's vector-borne viral diseases laboratory in Maryland suggested that the virus may have been well adapted in humans before the outbreak in Wuhan, the South China Morning Post reported.
The new study "may cast doubt on a theory that the virus originated in a Chinese laboratory", the report said.
The Chinese Foreign Ministry rejected the claim that the novel coronavirus originated in a laboratory in Wuhan. Spokesperson Wang Wenbin said: "The (Wuhan) laboratory has high-standard biosafety facilities and a strict management system. All the researchers must undergo systematic theoretical and operation training, and obtain the qualification and approval before entering the laboratory."
Wang said a few politicians in the US spread rumors and even claimed to have "a large amount of evidence" to support their so-called "truth," showing they have no morals.
"The contents disclosed by the relevant reports have enabled the world to see once again how little truth is in the so-called evidence and truth of the United States."
Victor Gao, chair professor at Soochow University and vice-president of the Center for China and Globalization think tank(CCG), said as the COVID-19 situation continues to worsen domestically, US politicians' smear campaign against China has become even more unscrupulous.
"Calling and blaming China 'the origin of the coronavirus', they are desperate to hold China accountable for the pandemic, and blackmail China to 'compensate' for the losses caused by COVID-19."
Though it is widely acknowledged that the tracing of the virus' origin is a scientific issue and should be conducted by scientists and medical experts, the US politicians, with ulterior motives, tried their best to propagate a conspiracy theory that the coronavirus emanated from a research lab in Wuhan, Gao said.
"There are neither rational nor legal grounds for their accusations. It is only a groundless claim featuring typical US' governments' strategy of buck-passing."
Li Haidong, an international relations professor at China Foreign Affairs University, said the US administration is using conspiracy theories to blame China in order to win votes in elections in November.
Li also said that as the timeline on how the pandemic has unfolded in the US is understood clearly, the administration's irresponsibility in handling the pandemic will be increasingly exposed to the public.
Despite timely warnings from China and the World Health Organization, the US administration deliberately downplayed the severity of the pandemic and misinformed the public by repeatedly telling Americans to think of the coronavirus as the flu, Li said.
"Coining such labels as 'China virus', US politicians have carefully crafted their narrative to frame and defame China, in a bid to turn the war between humans and the coronavirus into a 'new Cold War' to suppress China."
Confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the United States have exceeded 4.6 million, with the death toll surpassing 154,000 as of Sunday, according to the Johns Hopkins University. The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said at a summer camp in Georgia last month, at least 260 of 597 children contracted the coronavirus.