So it appears the idea that Covid-19 began at the Wuhan Institute for Virology may be more than a rumor.
There’s a chicken-and-egg problem here. The Institute houses specimens of bat-borne coronaviruses for study–but the reason they’re studying bat-borne coronaviruses is because bat-borne coronaviruses (such as that that caused SARS) are present in Central and Southern China. So it could come from either direction. If Patient Zero is in fact a grad student at the institute it’s a point in favor of the former case, but I’d like to see that confirmed first.
This sidesteps a common aspect of the rumor, that the Chinese government bred and released the virus as biological weapon. That idea does not appear to have any backing. Scientific analysis so far indicates that Covid-19 bears the hallmarks of a naturally occurring entity, not a designed weapon. And, even if the CCP wanted to make such a biological attack, they certainly wouldn’t start in one of their own cities. The Chinese government prizes stability and economic growth; the virus is a potent threat to both.
Abominably, some have used the supposed biowar plot as an excuse to carry out hate crimes on people of East Asian heritage. This is terrible.
If it is true that the virus leaked from the institute, it presents an interesting problem. Medical science requires study. If we’re going to fend off the possibility of a pandemic, we need to know the possible sources of pandemics–which could release said pandemic. This is of particular interest to those of living in the Greater Boston area. Boston University has a lab on its property that houses samples of, not only Covid-19, but smallpox and the Marburg virus. Some people have complained about the implict threat to the city, as they have complained about the small but real nuclear reactor located somewhere on MIT’s campus. BU has ignored these complaints under the argument that scientific progress requires these facilities. Which is true. What is the proper threshold of risk? I can’t answer.
Assuming the Institute is responsible for the virus’s release, it’s unclear what we should do.
The Chinese government intentionally treated the pandemic as a PR problem rather than a medical disaster. The Trump administration tried to do the same thing, but they had their feet held to the fire by the public. This is what it means to be a free people–that there is some form of accountability, even if it’s inefficient. There have been talk of trying to retaliate against the Chinese government for getting us all into this mess. Perhaps the world community could file suit against them in some greater body, such as the International Court of Justice. However, the point of being a sovereign power–particularly a sovereign great power–is that you can tell the world community to go fuck itself. The only resort after that is military power and what would that even look like? B-52 runs over Shanghai aren’t going to help anything. Reconstructing the world economy is going to require Chinese participation.
I guess the one thing that this might help is to remind the world that China is a dictatorship and it needs not to be a dictatorship. That there can be no normalization of relations with any nation possessing a system of government such as China’s, and to be reminded by their example that we must preserve and expand freedom at home. Democracy has spread across the world in Unprecedented Era because it works. This pandemic is a clear illustration of why.