Cui bono? The old Latin tag means ‘Who benefits?’ and is a time-honoured way of getting quickly to the heart of a complex or obscure misdeed. It is why I have reluctantly come to the conclusion that the Chinese government probably manufactured and released Covid-19 and may even be quietly disappointed that the world has decided otherwise.
We live in a world that is scared of China. Our politicians bend over backwards to avoid offending The Middle Kingdom, and with good reason. Although China’s fall to the condition of a broken victim state, walked all over first by Western Powers and then Japan in the two hundred years prior to the mid-20th Century had more to do with its inward-looking sclerotic administration than external influences, Chinese global policy is almost openly vengeful. The country lost its face and it wants it back. If a minor South American country, for instance, engaged in world-wide open theft of intellectual property and imprisoned and oppressed whole sectors of its ethnic minorities it would at the very least be ostracised on the world stage and quite likely corrected by force. Not China. No-one wants to step on the tiger’s tail, especially when that tiger produces so much of the manufactured products the rest of the world runs on. Not when it is a huge and growing market for almost every country’s products.
Above all, under Xi Jinping, who is looking more like Mao Zedong every day, China wants its power and status acknowledged. So imagine how the Central Committee might have reacted to a proposal to release a killer respiratory virus that would cripple democratic economies around the world but inflict only minor damage on a country that did not have to bother with personal freedoms, that was able to track and trace with very high efficiency because of the absence of concern for individual liberties, that could throw a cordon around a whole city and enforce it, that could mass-disinfect whole suburbs. Can you see them nodding and smiling? I certainly can.
I find it highly significant that the virus gained its first foothold in Wuhan, the city that hosts the country’s most important high security biolab, dealing in infectious viruses very like Covid-19, and in a food market a relatively short distance from that lab. What are the chances? That it should happen in Wuhan, rather than some other city, was one chance in 113, which is how many 1m+ population cities there are in China. Less than 1%. However, Wuhan is also in the centre of the Chinese horseshoe bat population, which the Wuhan lab studies, so we should not jump too far on that basis. There has been a lot of cogent scientific rebuttal of the human-engineered hypothesis, pointing out that there is a large pool of horseshoe bat coronaviruses in southern China and that the virus has all the apparent characteristics of a natural evolution. In particular, Peter Daszak of the Eco-Health Alliance came out very strongly in the Guardian rubbishing the idea that Covid-19 was man-made in Wuhan. I must point out that his organisation has worked with the Wuhan lab in the past and needs to do so in the future to continue its valuable work monitoring potential pandemics. That door would slam shut for good were he to take a different line, so we simply cannot regard Mr Daszak as an objective source.
I don’t reject the scientific validity of all this denial but would point out that it can be looked at from the other end of the telescope, as it were. It supports the truth that the Wuhan laboratory possesses all the knowledge and skills necessary to tweak one of those viruses just enough to make it fly as a human respiratory infectious virus. Thanks to the development of the Crispr technique it is now not only possible but relatively simple to insert single selected genes into virtually any genome. The burden of scientific denial is essentially that it doesn’t look like a man-made virus. If you wanted to manufacture an infectious and dangerous virus that’s not how you would go about it, they say. However if you wanted to conceal its human origin you would make the smallest possible adjustment to an existing virus and release it in the geographical area where such viruses were common. Say, by just tweaking the spike, something the Wuhan lab is certainly capable of.
My proposition does not rely on any form of scientific proof, because none is possible. My supposition, and that is all it is, is that the dispersal of Covid-19 has so magnificently served the agenda of President Xi we would be fools to dismiss the possibility. Personally, I suspect they did it, and they want us to to be fairly sure (but never certain) that they did it. It’s like the way Putin wanted us to know that he signed off on the Skripal hit. His denial is an example of what the Russians call vranyo, the lie you tell when you are daring people to contradict you, knowing they can’t. China’s denial may well have been a piece of vranyo (I don’t doubt there is a Chinese language equivalent).
Covid-19 has been not just an exercise in the display of power but an actual body blow to the economies of countries that China smiles at but considers enemies, as well as serving as a demonstration to their own people that their system is inherently stronger and less vulnerable than the effete democracies of the West. The fact that everyone, including official scientific sources, rushed to pooh-pooh the idea that China manufactured and released the virus was probably a source of satisfaction to Xi Jinping and his cronies. See how scared of us they are? But perhaps they are less pleased with the fact that everyone seems to have pretty much accepted that line as truth. No, no. Everyone is supposed to deny (good) but they are not supposed to believe it! Bad!
Haven’t the gwai-loa heard of cui bono? Are they stupid?
**** January 6, 2021 UPDATE ****
China has refused visas to the WHO team heading for Wuhan to investigate the origins of the Covid-19 virus.