Blame-shifting for the emergence of the coronavirus

There is a team of international scientists under the auspices of the UN currently in China to study the origins of the coronavirus, particularly how it made the jump from animals to humans. The first major outbreak occurred in Wuhan which instituted a massive lockdown that managed to suppress the spread so that the city is bustling with activity again, with traffic jams, busy restaurants and markets, and people now move around freely and do all the normal things, though there are still a few restrictions such as you have to wear masks all the time outdoors and groups of people must not exceed a dozen.

But what I found interesting is that now the Chinese authorities are pushing the idea that the virus originated outside of China and entered the country through imported food from the US. This may be in reaction to Trump’s constant efforts to blame China for the outbreak to the extent of referring to it as the ‘kung flu’ and demanding that world bodies refer to it as the ‘China virus’. So far there has been little or no evidence in support of the idea that the virus originated outside of China let alone in the US but people on the street in Wuhan seem to strongly believe it, demonstrating that the desire to adopt self-serving beliefs that absolve one’s own country in the absence of evidence transcends national boundaries.

From the moment a new, pandemic coronavirus emerged in the same city as a laboratory dedicated to the study of new coronaviruses with pandemic potential, Prof Shi Zhengli has found herself the focus of one of the biggest scientific controversies of our time.

For much of the past year she has met the suggestion that Sars-Cov-2 might have escaped from the Wuhan Institute of Virology with angry denial.

In an article in this month’s edition of Science Magazine she referred to a number of studies that, she said, suggest the virus existed outside of China before Wuhan’s first known case in December 2019.

But with the virus vanquished, the idea that it is a foreign import is repeated with almost unanimity across this city of 11 million people.

“It came here from other countries,” one woman running a hotpot stall in a busy street tells me. “China is a victim.”

“Where did it come from?” the next-door fishmonger repeats my question aloud, and then answers: “It came from America.”

So there we are. Knowing where the virus originated and how it emerged and spread is important in order to be able to better combat it and take preventive measures against future outbreaks. Trying to avoid and shift blame to others does no good and only makes things worse since it distracts from the main goal.


  1. Pierce R. Butler says

    I don’t think this is western counterpropaganda, but these days who knows:

    Mounting evidence suggests mink farms in China could be the cradle of Covid-19:

    … On 8 January, Science published an article stressing the need to study the link between Covid and mink farms.

    The original article (in French) was published on 8 January 2021. … China is indeed the world’s leading market and leading producer of fur worldwide. The industry in China is worth more than $20 billion a year, and involves more than 50 million animals. … In [the SARS outbreak of] 2003, it looks very much as though China manoeuvred to incriminate the civet, a species of marginal economic importance, in order to divert attention from and protect the fur industry. … the 3,000 mink farms in China, some of which have over 100,000 animals, could be the source of the current pandemic. It is therefore hard to understand why no viral research has been conducted on them. … Chinese mink are concentrated mainly in Shandong. This historic fur production region is home to thousands of farms, where different species are often raised together. The animal population totals, 15 million mink, 3 million raccoon dogs and 6 million foxes. … in 2019 Shandong produced 6.5 million mink pelts, down from nearly 15 million in 2018. This means nearly 9 million mink disappeared from one year to the next, a 55% drop in production for just one province. Such a sharp decline suggests some form of disaster. Could it have been a health problem ? The production of hides from foxes (5,7 million) and racooon dogs (3 million) remained perfectly stable. … It is surprising that officially not a single Chinese mink farm has been contaminated by Covid-19, whereas farms all over Europe—north, south, east and west —and in the United States and Canada have been affected. …

  2. Matt G says

    It doesn’t help that the world is full of the scientifically illiterate, most of whom are willfully so.

  3. KG says

    Pierce R. Butler@1,
    Seems plausible. I read somewhere, in connection with the Covid-19 outbreaks in Europe, that China was the world’s biggest producer of mink fur, but the possible implications didn’t hit me. Cramming together huge numbers of a species that would normally form no more than mother-and-kittens groups is absolutely asking for epidemics: they are unlikely to have much in the way of immune defences against respiratory (or gastro-intestinal) transmissable infections.

  4. KG says

    I see the article Pierce r. Butler linked to @1 makes exactly the point I made @4 about the vulnerability of large groups of captive animals that are naturally mostly solitary to epidemic disease -- but with a lot of empirical support I didn’t have.

  5. Holms says

    …demonstrating that the desire to adopt self-serving beliefs that absolve one’s own country in the absence of evidence transcends national boundaries.

    That may be one of the reasons public opinion is that way, but I would suggest another and larger reason is the CCP control of news available within China.

  6. jrkrideau says

    Have we heard of mass culling of mink in Shandong?

    If not, that suggests to me that the mink farms are unlikely to be a SARS-CoV-2 source. China reportedly will lock down a city of 9 million and test everyone over one or two cases of Covid-19. I cannot see the Chinese Gov’t tolerating a cesspit of SARS-CoV-2 virus over a few million mink, particularly a few hundred kilometres from Beijing. If there are infected mink farms the transmission is likely to be human --> mink in the first instance just as in Denmark.

    I am not sure that the article is actual propaganda but it basically is doing a what if… what if … that does not make me a believer. It’s one of those “just asking” things.

    If, as likely, the SARS-CoV-2 virus came from Southwestern China, i.e. southwest of Wuhan where all the coronavirus infected bats are supposed to be, Shandong is a long way away on the Yellow Sea.

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