After new reports of a never released, never publicly seen U.S. intelligence document that alleges that the coronavirus originated in a lab in Wuhan, China, the U.S. media is in a frenzy. Initially smaller or more conservative news outlets were touting the so-called “lab leak theory” but eventually all main stream news sources have been covering it, and now President Biden has ordered a review intended to draw a final conclusion on the origins of the virus within 90 days. But this certainly wouldn’t be the first time corporate news outlets worked as uncritical mouthpieces for government intelligence reports. It doesn’t matter how many news articles refer to the same report, there still is no concrete proof the virus leaked from a lab.
While scientists are not in complete agreement about how this coronavirus began infecting humans, and while it is possible that a lab leak caused the outbreak, most scientists – even those who recently wrote a letter urging that the matter be investigated further – do not claim to favor the lab leak explanation. They simply admit that because they don’t yet fully understand how the virus began in humans, understanding its origins still requires further study. But scientists do understand that because of habitat loss and continued human incursion into animal habitats, the likelihood of “spillover” events from animals to humans is high and may increase especially as urban development and deforestation increase.
So, if there is no evidence of a lab leak, yet it is highly probable that human activity is leading to more spillover events —which is the most likely explanation for the coronavirus — why is this story getting so much attention? The answer has less to do with any actual new evidence for this idea and has a lot more to do with imperialist rivalry between the United States and China.
There is wide-spread agreement within the U.S. ruling class of the growing threat that China poses to U.S. economic power. In his recent speech to Congress, after warning that China is trying to become “the most significant, consequential nation in the world,” Biden said that the U.S. must “win the 21st century.” Much of Biden’s cabinet is directly connected to capitalist-financed think tanks that paint China as the biggest threat to U.S. economic interests.
This threat to the interests of U.S. capitalists has created a push to demonize China as an enemy of the U.S. people. In a report from last year by one of the most influential foreign policy think-tanks (the Council on Foreign Relations), they advise that “the United States should, in a measured way and through a bipartisan consensus, educate the American people regarding the nature and duration of China’s challenges to U.S. vital national interests.” In other words, the American people should be educated about why China is an enemy! The goal is to fan the flames of American nationalism and anti-Chinese sentiment during this period of intensified competition with China.
And it’s no accident that the lab leak story keeps making the headlines. Even though it is still seen as a very unlikely explanation by most epidemiologists, it is a great way for the media, owned by the U.S. ruling class, to continue “educating” us about the so-called Chinese threat to the United States. And what better way is there to do it than to blame the Chinese government for an outbreak that the U.S. ruling class allowed to rampage unchecked throughout the country.
Without any hard evidence to give the claim credibility, the Wuhan lab leak story has to be seen for what it is: misinformation with an “educational” purpose.