Is the Coronavirus a Bioweapon?

A look at the Chinese regime's biological warfare intentions, capabilities
February 7, 2020 Updated: February 10, 2020
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Commentary

No less a figure than Dr. Francis Boyle, an expert on biowarfare, believes that “the coronavirus that we’re dealing with here is an offensive biological warfare weapon.”

Speaking of Wuhan’s Institute of Virology, which is at the epicenter of the epidemic, he added that there have “been previous reports of problems with that lab and things leaking out of it.”

For Boyle to be correct, the Chinese regime would have to have both the intention and the capability to develop such a bioweapon, but does it?

It’s no secret that the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), despite being a signatory to the United Nations’ Biological Weapons Convention, which bans biological weapons, regards the development of bioweapons as a key part of achieving military dominance. The vice president of China’s Academy of Military Medical Sciences, He Fuchu, said in 2015 that biomaterials were the new “strategic commanding heights” of warfare.

People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Gen. Zhang Shibo went even further in his 2017 book “War’s New High Land,” claiming that “modern biotechnology development is gradually showing strong signs characteristic of an offensive capability,” including the potential for “specific ethnic genetic attacks.”

To be perfectly clear, what Zhang is talking about are bioweapons that kill other races, but for which people who look like him would have a natural or acquired immunity. Those who might counter by saying that this is just a wild-eyed general who doesn’t necessarily speak for the communist leadership, bear in mind that Zhang was a full member of the 18th Central Committee (2012–2017) and is a former president of the National Defense University.

So as far as intentions are concerned, I think the evidence is indisputable that the CCP would develop offensive biological warfare weapons if it could. But can it? What do we know about China’s capabilities?

We know that China has mastered CRISPR technology, which enables the kind of gene-splicing that’s needed to create a biological superweapon. After all, it was a Chinese scientist, He Jiankui, who announced that he had re-engineered the human genome to make it resistant to HIV, a feat for which he recently received a three-year prison sentence.

If you’re intent upon genetically engineering offensive biological warfare weapons, you also need a very secure facility to ensure that they don’t escape from containment. After all, you’re taking dangerous pathogens such as SARS, Ebola, and various strains of coronavirus and trying to make them even more deadly. China only has one such Level 4 microbiology lab, the Wuhan Institute of Virology, and it’s located in—you guessed it—the city of Wuhan.

Finally, in addition to the technology and the facilities, you need raw biomaterial. This means laying your hands on the deadliest viruses to be found in nature, into which you can engineer characteristics that make them even more deadly. Some ways of doing this include enhancing human-to-human transmission of a virus originally harvested from another species, or increasing the latency period before an infected person begins to show symptoms.

There is incontrovertible evidence that the Wuhan lab has acquired some of the deadliest coronaviruses on the planet. It’s also worth noting that just last year, two Chinese nationals, husband and wife team Drs. Cheng Keding and Qiu Xiangguo, were removed from the National Microbiology Lab in Winnipeg by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police as part of an intellectual property theft investigation. The lab is Canada’s only Level 4 microbiology lab, which is to say, it’s the same type of lab the Chinese operate in Wuhan. Qiu is known for working on the Ebola virus, while her husband has published studies about SARS. The RCMP investigation noted that both made frequent trips back to the Wuhan lab.

The bottom line is that China has everything it needs to create a deadly bioweapon: the technology, the facility, and the raw biomaterial.

Much ink has been spilled by The Washington Post and other mainstream media outlets to try to convince us that the deadly coronavirus is a product of nature rather than nefariousness, and that anyone who says otherwise is an unhinged conspiracy theorist.

When a group of Indian virologists published a paper suggesting that the novel coronavirus contains insertions that resemble HIV gene sequences, they were widely attacked, and the paper was withdrawn for revision. The paper’s critics claimed that the supposed HIV insertions didn’t enable the novel coronavirus to cripple human immune systems, as HIV itself does, by attacking white blood cells, or lymphocytes, that fight infections.

In fact, there is evidence that the novel coronavirus can indeed cause “progressive lymphocyte reduction.” But even if there weren’t, that wouldn’t prove anything. The fact that a bioweapon under development doesn’t work as well as intended isn’t proof that it’s not a bioweapon, merely that it wasn’t yet ready to deploy. And, whether it was a bioweapon-in-the-making or not, there seems little reason to doubt that the coronavirus escaped from the Wuhan Institute of Virology.

Propinquity suggests causation. After all, if the first coronavirus infection were a simple result of accidental animal-to-human transmission as claimed, this could have occurred anywhere in China. How curious that the epicenter of the epidemic just happens to be in a city of 11 million people where China’s only Level 4 lab is located. Chance? I think not.

Add the fact that China has a history of similar lab accidents. In 2004, for example, the SARS virus leaked from a Beijing lab twice (!) and caused an outbreak of the disease. The Wuhan facility may have been state-of-the-art, but Chinese safety standards, in general, are notably lax. And if Chinese scientists were under rush orders to research and develop bioweapons, corners would almost surely be cut.

Another reason to think that the world is dealing with something more than mere incompetence here is the reaction of CCP officials. Beijing has gone to truly extraordinary lengths to cover up the widening outbreak. Coronavirus test kits are rationed so that most of the cases go undiagnosed. Most of the deaths are attributed to other causes, such as pneumonia. Funerals have been banned, and corpses are being rushed to the crematoria without any paperwork. The ovens in the Wuhan crematoria are going day and night to destroy the evidence of the true scale of the outbreak.

Early on in the outbreak, authorities even arrested eight doctors whose “crime” was that they reported the large number of cases of a new viral infection that they were seeing in their hospitals. They were accused of “making false statements” and “spreading rumors,” and were released only after they signed confessions. They are now being viewed by the public at large as heroes, especially since one of the original whistleblowers, Dr. Li Wenliang, has now died from the disease.

As far as the source of the epidemic is concerned, the authorities were equally duplicitous. They first pointed to the snakes and bats supposedly being sold at the Wuhan seafood market, and shut the market down. But it soon came out that snakes don’t carry coronaviruses and that bats—which do—weren’t sold at the market.

There is one final piece of evidence that for me, as a China hand, supports the theory that the coronavirus is an escaped Chinese bioweapon. There is a rumor going around on the Chinese internet that the United States has deliberately unleashed an American bioweapon on the Chinese population.

Tellingly, such absurd claims aren’t being censored by authorities, while accurate reporting on the outbreak is. It’s very much in character for the Communist Party leaders to blame their chief geopolitical rival for crimes that they themselves commit.

With its lies and evasions, is the Party simply trying to cover up its incompetence in controlling the outbreak? Or are its leaders also trying to hide something much more serious: their criminal complicity in the outbreak’s origins? Even taking into account the Party’s penchant for secrecy, the multiple levels of deception engaged by communist officials over the past couple of months, including those at the highest levels, have been extraordinary.

We may never know for certain whether the novel coronavirus was intended to be used as a bioweapon. But we do know that the major Western print, broadcast, and social media are all doing their best to dismiss the very possibility as a paranoid fantasy.

But—as the old joke goes—it’s not paranoia if they’re really out to get you. And, on this point, the evidence is clear. We know—because PLA generals have told us so—that their researchers are racing to develop lethal bioweapons as fast as their theft of Western technology and stolen virus samples will allow. And it’s a most reasonable supposition to assume that, because of this push to develop a deadly bioweapon, safety standards were neglected at the virology institute in Wuhan, and the deadly coronavirus managed to escape from the lab.

At the end of the day, whether the novel coronavirus had already been tinkered with before it reached the streets of Wuhan is (almost) of secondary importance. The CCP is clearly engaged in an effort to develop such a weapon as part and parcel of its strategy for the Chinese regime to replace the United States as the dominant power on the planet.

To put it another way, does anyone think that the CCP’s leaders—once they had perfected a bioweapon to which they had a natural or induced immunity—would hesitate to unleash a deadly pandemic on the West to achieve its “China Dream” of world domination? Those who doubt that the leaders of the Communist Party would use such an “assassin’s mace” need to tell us precisely what moral or ethical considerations would stay their hand. Because I can think of none.

I suspect that the only real surprise for the Chinese leadership in the novel coronavirus is that China itself has become ground zero for the outbreak that they had hoped to one day unleash on other countries.

There is an ancient Chinese saying that seems appropriate here.

“Picking up a rock [to throw at others], but dropping it on one’s own foot.”

Steven W. Mosher is president of the Population Research Institute and the author of “Bully of Asia: Why China’s Dream Is the New Threat to World Order.” A former National Science Foundation fellow, he studied human biology at Stanford University under famed geneticist Luigi Cavalli-Sforza. He holds advanced degrees in Biological Oceanography, East Asian Studies, and Cultural Anthropology. One of America’s leading China watchers, he was selected in 1979 by the National Science Foundation to be the first U.S. social scientist to do field research in China.

Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.