Editor’s note for Tuesday, January 19, 2021

A note from the editor of today's SupChina Access newsletter.

editor's note for Access newsletter

My thoughts today: 

One of the predictions for 2021 that I considered making — but didn’t — in our 2021 Red Paper, was that Beijing would declare that the origin of the virus that causes COVID-19 was outside of China. Today, that scenario became a little more likely. 

In response to a U.S. government ‘fact sheet’ published last week that says that there is “reason to believe that several researchers inside the Wuhan Institute of Virology became sick in autumn 2019, before the first identified case of the outbreak,” suggesting that the virus may have been released from or made at that lab, China’s Foreign Ministry hit back. Spokesperson Huà Chūnyíng 华春莹 insinuated (in English, Chinese) that the virus may have originated at a U.S. biological lab at Fort Detrick. Video of her remarks (in Chinese) has gone viral, and state media have repeated Hua’s remarks in widely circulated articles. 

At some point this year, Beijing will probably publish a report celebrating China’s victory over COVID-19, and it is likely to contain evidence presented as conclusive that the virus arrived in China on imported frozen food or some other foreign vector. Minks — the furry animals used to make politically-incorrect coats — are currently under consideration.

On the other hand, the Trump presidency ends tomorrow, and so does the tenure of Mike Pompeo, who has been one of the most enthusiastic promoters of the idea that COVID-19 came from a Chinese lab. Perhaps China’s diplomats will respond in kind if Pompeo’s successor is less noisy about blaming China for the pandemic? Or perhaps not. 

Our word of the day is genocide (种族灭绝 zhǒngzú mièjué). 

—Jeremy Goldkorn, Editor-in-Chief