China pushes back against calls for COVID-19 transparency

Foreign Affairs

China is responding to increasing criticism from abroad for its lack of transparency about the early days of the COVID-19 epidemic. Political leaders in Australia, Britain, France, Germany, and the United States are calling for investigations or greater transparency from Beijing about the origins of the virus. The calls are especially loud in the U.S. — the state of Missouri just filed a lawsuit in federal court that blasts China for an “appalling campaign of deceit,” per Bloomberg (porous paywall).

Cuī Tiānkǎi 崔天凯, the Chinese ambassador to the U.S., tried to turn the “transparency” critique against the U.S. Per Reuters, he criticized the “lack of transparency, not in terms of science, not in terms of medical treatment, but in terms of some of the political developments, especially here in the United States…We are doing our best to have transparency. We are discovering, we are learning. At the same time, we are sharing,” Cui added.

“China and Germany have maintained close communication and exchanges” during the epidemic, the Chinese foreign ministry said in response to Angela Merkel’s comments that “the more transparent China is about the origin of the virus, the better it is for everyone in the world in order to learn from it,” per SCMP.

“‘No, I never said [there’s] no human-to-human transmission in the public — never, ever,’ George Gao Fu [高福 Gāo Fú], director of the Chinese Centre for Disease Control and Prevention, told state media China Global Television Network in the interview aired on Monday,” SCMP reports.

Chinese scientist Shí Zhènglì 石正丽, a principal investigator at the Wuhan Institute of Virology, has previously said that she could “guarantee on my life” that the virus hadn’t originated in her labs. A Wall Street Journal profile of her quotes international colleagues of hers who also don’t believe that conspiracy theory, unlike a segment of Trump administration officials.

The People’s Daily is implicitly pushing back against the common criticism that China has underreported its own COVID-19 numbers in a piece titled US COVID-19 statistics challenged by multiple research: lethal virus is far more widespread in the country than previously thought.

—Lucas Niewenhuis