With the U.S. intelligence community due to produce a report on COVID-19 origins in weeks, the Chinese regime has unleashed a new wave of propaganda and disinformation aimed at painting the United States as the pandemic source.
Over the past few weeks, the regime has redoubled efforts to promote a conspiracy theory that the virus originated from the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases at the Fort Detrick Army base in Maryland, a claim first proposed by a Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson last year despite not having any evidence.
The concerted propaganda push comes as the regime faces mounting international scrutiny over whether the COVID-19 virus originated from a Chinese lab in Wuhan, where the virus first started spreading. Meanwhile, in China, a fast-spreading Delta variant of the virus is challenging Beijing’s costly lockdown strategy.
The state-owned Science and Technology Daily, which the regime has described as “a major publicity channel for the Chinese central authorities,” on July 29 ran an article citing World News Network, a U.S.-based English news aggregator, alleging that the U.S. military spread the COVID-19 virus to Europe through a blood donation drive. The source of the conspiracy theory appears to have come from an Italian media outlet.
Another Aug. 4 article in English, penned by World News Network’s staff reporters and cited unnamed experts, alleged, without evidence, that some patients who contracted EVALI, a disease associated with vaping, in July 2019 might have been COVID-19 patients.
Global Times, a state run tabloid known for its hawkish tones, went further by organizing a petition that calls for a World Health Organization inquiry into the Fort Detrick lab. The petition was widely promoted on other Chinese media. The outlet claims to have brought a total of 25 million signatures in three weeks.
Other state-controlled outlets have trumpeted similar views. Broadcaster CCTV on July 29 aired a 20 minute segment accusing the United States of “engaging in origin-tracing terrorism.”
Anti-U.S. memes and illustrations—such as one describing the United States as a “super-spreader,” and another listing eight alleged U.S. failures—have also been promoted by state-run outlets on Chinese and international social media.
CCTV’s overseas arm, CGTN, produced a cartoon suggesting that the lab leak theory was concocted by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), which it dubbed the “Conspiracies Invented Agency.”
By Eva Fu