The Wuhan virus: Did it come from the wilds or the labs in China?

Wuhan, now recognised as the epicentre of the COVID-19 epidemic, hosts China’s only and the highest rated Level 4 microbiology lab.

While genomic medical experts maintain that the novel coronavirus spread from bats and wild animals (like Pangolin) in China’s Wuhan – now recognised as the epicentre of the COVID-19 epidemic – few of us know that the city also hosts China’s only and the highest rated Level 4 microbiology labs. And if you put the evidence that is also emerging – and join the dots – then it could have also come from the microbiology labs of Wuhan, whether by design or default. These could have been responsible for the spread of the deadly coronavirus or COVID-19 that has taken thousands of lives and infected hundreds of thousands across the world. This is the other side of the coronavirus or COVID-19 story.

In August 2019, the Canadian Police in Winnipeg – where Canada’s only Level 4 microbiology research facility is housed – had arrested a Chinese couple on charges of stealing intellectual property after their visit to the Institute of Virology in Wuhan, wrote Sanjeeva Shukla (on 24th March in his The Times of India blog). He also stated that Chinese PLA General Zhang Shibo had written about the effectiveness of ethnic genetic attacks in his book ‘War’s New High Land’ (in 2017), and that in 2015, Vice President of the Chinese Academy of Military Medical Sciences, He Fuchu, said that biomaterials were the new “strategic commanding heights” of warfare. Furthermore, as the Chinese authors of ‘Unrestricted Warfare’ authors – both Colonels in PLA – argued that “the first rule of unrestricted warfare is that there are no rules, with nothing forbidden”. As Sun Tzu had said, ‘if the enemy expects you to do three things, do the fourth’.

Add to this, the “Vision” for China, defined by their President Xi Jinping in 2017, in which he categorically stated that he wanted China to become a “top-ranked innovative nation by 2035, (and) a nation with pioneering global influence”. Any informed observer would know that global influence comes from a combination of economic heft and military power. All other moral grandstanding and well-meaning initiatives count for little, compared to these factors. China is now the world’s second-largest economy, and even as it continues to strengthen its military capabilities, it is in the bio-chemical warfare sphere that it isn’t up to the standards of the West.

China is currently putting in place five bio-chemical weapon labs, but “between them the US, Europe, Russia and Australia have around 50 functioning or under construction labs, all under maximum-security”, says an article in The New Indian Express Magazine (dated 22 March 2020). But as “the study of dangerous pathogens such as Ebola or Marburg cannot be conducted without importing the viruses into a country,” there are now reports on how Chinese scientists have been arrested for stealing knowhow and bio-chemical vials from labs in America. This is all part of the New Cold War.

Last week, the US Department of Justice announced the arrest of a Harvard University professor, Dr Charles Leiber (head of the Department of Chemistry and Chemical Biology), for receiving USD 50,000 per month and another USD 1,58,000 for other expenses plus for his affiliation with the Wuhan University of Technology. He was also running a multi-million dollar program to entice other scientists to share their research expertise with China. Also arrested, along with Dr Charles Leiber, was a female researcher Yen Ching Ye, of Boston University (department of physics, chemistry and biomedical engineering) who had hidden her connections with the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) as a Lieutenant. And a third Chinese national – Jheng Zhao Zang – was arrested just as he was boarding his flight to China was caught with stolen 21 vials of biological materials – in his baggage – from his US University’s research centre. His research was sponsored by Harvard University. All this can’t be an accident or a coincidence, as the US spokesman announced.

These arrests are a part of the US Department of Justice’s ‘Çhina Initiative’ to stop and prosecute Chinese economic espionage and theft of intellectual property, to stop the long term Chinese campaign to steal US technologies for its uses. The US Attorney General had recently referred to China as America’s ‘primary rival’. And the FBI director has stated that ‘no country poses a greater counterintelligence threat to the US than China’. But now, with thousands of people dead in the western world, there is bound to be a concern in other European countries as well, over what appears as part of China’s ruthless agenda to emerge as the primary power in the world. But China isn’t willing to sit quietly. It has already blamed the US for bringing the virus into China, with Iran echoing its line, that the US has spread the deadly virus, to cripple the Chinese economy. On the face of it, this could be justified on the grounds that the loss to China’s economy was initially projected to be around USD 348 billion and to the US economy about USD 15 billion. But as the world battles the virus, with mixed levels of responses, the Chinese economy is bouncing back. Many factories have reopened, and China is already – would you believe it – producing millions of masks and exporting these to the world!

And for those who continue to insist, that the coronavirus or COVID-19 has killed a large number of Chinese too, the counter is, this is because China allowed the virus to spread after it was first reported in Wuhan city on 1st December last year (2019). And Beijing then waited for another two weeks for Wuhan’s doctors to confirm that the virus was spreading following contact between humans. By late December’19, hospitals in Wuhan had witnessed an ‘exponential‘ rise in cases with what we know now were COVID-19 symptoms, even though these cases – reportedly- could not be linked to the Hunan Seafood wholesale market. Were these cases the new guinea pigs? Doctors like Dr Li Wenlian, who spoke about such a disease and that it could lead to an epidemic, were disciplined for making public statements. He later died of the disease. Remember, that at least 45 million deaths occurred in China during Mao’s ‘Great Leap Forward’ from 1958 to 1962. It apparently hadn’t bothered Mao. And as the legacy of Mao guides the Chinse leadership even today, a few thousand deaths won’t bother them now.

The questions that must concern us is in India are:- a) Are the Chinese working to a plan? (b) Is the COVID-19 assault on our human race, a test of more biological attacks to follow? And if so (c) Are we ready to such future attacks?

Prime Minister Narendra Modi has done well to move fast towards a nationwide lockdown. But in the event of a bio-chemical attack on India, not just by China – as its initial aim is to cripple its real challengers in the West – but even by a terrorist group, India will be in a tight spot. The New Indian Express report also quoted Lt Gen Vinod Bhatia, a former DGMO, saying that “[T]hough the Indian Army is trained to prepare for chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear attacks, the programmes are on the back burner due to lack of resources.”

And what about the rest of the country? We aren’t prepared at all. India’s vast population spread, dismal health facilities, poor connectivity, and with each state government having its own operating procedures for responses, we could be in a hopeless situation in the event of a bio-chemical attack, the scale of which could be far, far bigger than the fatality and infection from the current COVID-19.

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