Even those who had no illusions about the differences between the Trump and the Biden administration might be surprised by the latest twist of events.
The end of May saw the report about the closure of the State Department investigation launched by the Trump administration to prove the coronavirus originated in a Chinese lab. The reason behind the decision? Officially, concern about the quality of its work.
Supporters of the Pompeo-led investigation claimed that it was an honest effort, standing on scientifically solid footing, to check whether a secret Chinese biological weapons program could stand behind the global pandemic.
Those against it labelled it as a politicized trick to blame China, fitting perfectly into the general anti-Chinese sentiment prevailing in the Trump-administration. According to them, investigators cherry-picked bits and pieces of information, while hid others in order to prove the theory. Maybe even worse from an administrative point of view, those involved in the project were accused of ineffective use of resources and appeared to actively hide their work.
Both President Trump and Mike Pompeo, and along with them, Senator Tom Cotton (R-Arkansas) were blamed, mocked and ridiculed in (Democrat-leaning) mass media when they claimed that the virus could have originated from the Wuhan Institute of Virology or that there might be some sort of connection between the Chinese military and the pandemic.
Both New York Times and The Washington Post ran articles about the “conspiracy theory” spread by the above-mentioned people, while another report claimed that there was “virtually no chance” that the theory was true.
The tide seemed to turn slightly, when Dr. Anthony Fauci said that he was not convinced that the virus was something natural, while about a year ago, he said that “the US strongly leaned toward the idea that the virus could not have been artificially or deliberately manipulated”.
NSA Sullivan has criticized the WHO, that in turn, pointed at the Chinese government’s active opposition. The international organization’s own investigation needs more time and more access, and the Biden administration seemed to be willing to rally support for it. In fact, it was the main policy agenda, to leave the investigation to the WHO.
On 27 May, the Biden administration called on the WHO to carry out a second phase of its investigation into the origins of the coronavirus, with independent experts given full access to original data and samples in China.
The renewed interest in the “fringe theory” comes after a WSJ article on sick Chinese scientists at the Wuhan Institute of Virology and the letter of 18 prominent scientists, published in Science calling for further investigations.
Still, it might have been surprising for many, that President Biden issued a statement that he has directed the US intelligence community to redouble its efforts in investigating the origins of the pandemic. A.k.a. was it a laboratory accident or whether it emerged naturally from human contact with infected animals. US national laboratories were ordered to assist the efforts.
Basically restarting the investigation stopped by him.
The deadline? 90 days.
It doesn’t matter that the US authorities spent the best part of the last year trying to figure out an answer to this and intelligence services are, well, unsure and divided on the issue. So to say, there is “nothing definitive”.
They are to reach a “definitive conclusion” about the origins of the coronavirus quite soon.
As the two administration’s China politics do not differ significantly, the question arises, whether it is yet another frontline in the Beijing-Washington confrontation.
Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs definitely thinks so, stating, “The US’s one aim is to use the pandemic to pursue stigmatization and political manipulation to shift the blame. They are being disrespectful to science, irresponsible to people’s lives and counterproductive to concerted global efforts to fight the virus.”
Anyways, the announcement achieved at least one thing.
First, that Donald Trump can now feel a little bit vindicated and claim that “he had very little doubt that the virus came from a lab”.
And he might rightfully feel so, since if his “conspiracy theory” turns out to be true, media outlets and politicians might need to face hard questions about biased reporting and getting the story wrong. Maybe only because it was supported by Trump?
And secondly, that hardliner Trump-supporters, like Matthew Pottinger, Trump’s former deputy NSA, the person behind the frequent use of the term “Wuhan virus”, or Congressman Michael McCaul (R-Texas) praised, out loud and in the open, President Biden.
And that’s something.