Chinese officials are increasingly denying the coronavirus originated in Wuhan, China, in what some experts say is an attempt to lay the groundwork to blame the outbreak on the United States.
At the same time, some in the Western media are arguing it is “racist” to call the coronavirus the “Wuhan virus,” which could aid China’s efforts to obfuscate responsibility.
On March 4, the Chinese Foreign Ministry’s spokesman suggested that the coronavirus’s origin was “unknown.”
“Confirmed cases of #COVID19 were first found in China, but its origin is not necessarily in China. We are still tracing the origin,” he tweeted.
— Spokesperson发言人办公室 (@MFA_China) March 4, 2020
On March 7, China’s ambassador to South Africa Lin Songtian suggested that the coronavirus did not originate in China.
“Although the epidemic first broke out in China, it did not necessarily mean that the virus is originated from China, let alone ‘made in China,'” he tweeted.
Although the epidemic first broke out in China, it did not necessarily mean that the virus is originated from China, let alone "made in China". pic.twitter.com/EVXLkQnyfF
— Chinese Ambassador to South Africa (@AmbLINSongtian) March 7, 2020
The Chinese Communist government is “laying the theoretical foundation that the U.S. spread disease in their country,” expert and author Gordon Chang said during a panel at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) on February 27.
Chang noted China had Zhong Nanshan, a Chinese health expert known as the hero of fighting the SARS epidemic, raise doubts in China Daily, a Chinese state-run media outlet, that the coronavirus originated in China. Chang tweeted:
Zhong Nanshan, once a hero, has been reduced to a propaganda worker. This recent statement from Zhong is laying the groundwork for blaming others–especially the US–for spreading the #coronavirus to #China. Zhong must know his words are ludicrous and dangerous..
Zhong Nanshan, once a hero, has been reduced to a propaganda worker. This recent statement from Zhong is laying the groundwork for blaming others–especially the US–for spreading the #coronavirus to #China. Zhong must know his words are ludicrous and dangerous. #COVID19 https://t.co/qPbMMWRkIM
— Gordon G. Chang (@GordonGChang) February 27, 2020
People’s Daily, another Chinese state media outlet, on February 23 reported claims that the coronavirus originated in the U.S.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has called it the “Wuhan Virus,” prompting protests from Chinese officials who deny it originated in Wuhan.
Some in the Western media are also protesting calling it the “Wuhan Virus,” with some arguing that it is racist. MSNBC host Chris Hayes called it “gross” to say the “Wuhan Virus.”
Just astoundingly gross to call it the Wuhan Virus. https://t.co/cMrsA59xTH
— Chris Hayes (@chrislhayes) March 9, 2020
U.S. National Security Adviser Robert O’Brien on Wednesday flatly dismissed suggestions the coronavirus did not originate in China.
“This virus did not originate in the United States, it originated in Wuhan and Hubei Province in China. It originated some time ago,” he said at the Heritage Foundation.
“Unfortunately, rather than using best practices, this outbreak in Wuhan was covered up,” he said. “It probably cost the world community two months to respond.”
He said if not for those two months, “we could have dramatically curtailed what happened in China and what’s now happening across the world.”