Why the COVID-related lab leak conspiracy is making a comeback
On February 27, it was reported in the Wall Street Journal that the US Department of Energy "declared" that it believed the COVID-19 pandemic originated from a laboratory leak.
The conclusion, which is random given such a department has nothing to do with epidemic control or health care, came seemingly of nowhere even after the world has effectively moved on from the pandemic. How of course the department, with no relevant expertise, reached this conclusion or established evidence of such an origin, was not established.
However, one thing that is clear is the United States is once again using COVID as a political weapon to smear China and manipulate international news coverage against it. The news of this "decision" comes amidst China submitting a peace proposal in order to attempt to end the Russia-Ukraine conflict, a position which was firmly rejected by the United States, which has the biggest stake in continued escalation.
The US is, of course, a master in manipulating the international agenda, and weaponizing negative news with the fundamental goal of attacking China.
The Western mainstream media are beholden to the foreign policies of the United States. There are several reasons, including infiltration of the senior positions of the biggest news organizations by Western intelligence officials, political and professional networks which tend to link these figures with the editors and journalists of major news organizations, the ability of US government departments to choose which issues to cover and devote resources too, and of course as an extension of that, the role of US and military industrial complex think-tanks and their appointed "experts" to drive and shape the news agenda on the items of administration's choosing.
Such news manipulation has often been described by Scholar Noam Chomsky as "Manufacturing Consent," that is the methodology of the US government to turn mass media into a machine to package and sell its policies through the above-mentioned strategies, creating public support and momentum for its specific goals, which usually involve creating fear or anger about things, for example, "Saddam Hussein has weapons of mass destruction." Anything, of course, which contravenes the US agenda, such as human rights abuses in a friendly country, or incidents such as the destruction of Nord Stream 2 and the subsequent expose of that, are ignored, illustrating the mainstream media's conformity and obedience to the US line.
Essentially, the US government chooses what issues the public should "care" and be "angry" about, and which ones it should ignore. Hence, according to the mainstream media now, little attention should be brought to the train derailment in Ohio which has caused a mass chemical leak, but instead, people should be once again speculating as to whether COVID originated from a laboratory.
None of this of course is new; for the past three years the United States has aggressively weaponized COVID as a public opinion crusade against the country in order to forcibly reset allies foreign policies against China, and to legitimate greater geopolitical confrontation.
In doing so, from day one, every single aspect of China's response to the pandemic has been grossly attacked and subject to absurd exaggerations and relentless negativity, from framing the zero-COVID policy as inhumane, to claiming China's decision to change course was disastrous, and of course most notoriously spreading conspiracy theories pertaining to the origin of the pandemic itself. Often these attacks have been laden with immense levels of hypocrisy and double standards in regards to the COVID responses of Western countries, where over 1 million people died in the United States.
However, the question is why have COVID-related attacks re-emerged now? At a time where, relatively speaking, the world is now moving out of the pandemic? The answer is because the United States sees an opportunity to reintroduce these bad faith attacks as a means of manipulating the news agenda against China, in particularly to disrupt and undermine its bid to facilitate peace in Ukraine.
This is also coinciding with completely false stories pushed by US officials that China is about to "supply" Russia with artillery shells and other munitions. The US has a vested interest in the war's continuation because its policy is to pursue escalation and inflict a zero-sum victory over Russia in the view to securing strategic gains in Europe. As such, it has no interest in a compromise or negotiated peace, and has worked not only to dismiss China's pragmatic peace proposal at hand, but seek to spread negative publicity about it simultaneously to paint its efforts as being in bad faith.
This also involves returning to the COVID lab leak conspiracy theory. To summarize, the United States is master manipulators, and has a powerful hold over the English-language news agenda of the world. The first step to challenging it is to acknowledge it exists, and to question the source, motivation and timing of such reports respectively.
(The author, a postgraduate student of Chinese studies at Oxford University, is an English analyst on international relations. The views are his own.)