Trusting China in Inviting Another Pandemic

It’s one thing to die from natural causes. Worse, to die from a disease leaked by Chinese scientists in a lab and allowed to wipe out millions. That is now almost certainly the explanation for the origins of COVID-19.

And even worse? U.S. taxpayers paid for it.

The U.S. government hasn’t learned a thing. Disease watchers are tracking the spread of H5N1—bird or avian flu—across the globe as it invades mammals for the first time, leaving South American beaches littered with dead sea lions. In the U.S., 34 dairy cattle herds in nine states are infected. Scientists are anxiously watching for any sign the virus is changing genetically to make human-to-human spread possible.

Against this backdrop, the U.S. Department of Agriculture is collaborating with the Chinese Academy of Sciences, the parent organization of the Wuhan Institute of Virology from which COVID-19 leaked. The collaboration is manipulating strains of bird flu, making them deadlier, then infecting ducks and geese with them. What could go wrong?

The Biden administration also stealthily extended the U.S.-China Science and Technology Agreement on March 14 for another six months despite mounting opposition.

Nineteenth-century scientist Louis Pasteur said, “Science knows no country, because knowledge belongs to humanity.” A noble idea but too naive for today’s world. The U.S. must be guarded about supporting and sharing research with scientists controlled by enemy nations.

Unfortunately, the U.S. too often leaves decisions about funding international collaborations to the scientists. They generally have a global mindset, making them more loyal to their colleagues than to their country. Congress needs to take charge.

Canada is curbing its cooperation with China on infectious diseases. Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre told Parliament that “dangerous viruses” had been covertly taken from a Canadian lab to Beijing. He said, “We should be collaborating with likeminded democracies that we can trust, not those that want to attack our interests.”

Consider the USDA collaboration with the Chinese Academy of Sciences and University of Edinburgh’s Roslin Institute to manipulate strains of avian flu, making them more lethal. The USDA’s Chinese partner, Liu Wenjun, says “the purpose of the three countries collaborating is to exchange the research data … to control global diseases.” Can Liu be taken at his word?

No. He’s not free to do the right thing any more than the scientists at the Wuhan Institute were free to alert the world when COVID-19 leaked.

Dr. Ben Hu, the U.S.-funded scientist at Wuhan, became patient zero when he fell ill with COVID-19 symptoms in November 2019. But neither his identity nor his illness was disclosed until June 2023. Had he been able to tell the world about his illness—something the Chinese government prevented him from doing—millions of lives might have been saved.

Is China a trustworthy scientific partner? That question has just been answered. From the first cases of the virus in Wuhan, China blocked all investigations, barred international agencies and foreign scientists’ access to the Wuhan market and hospital data, and muzzled Chinese scientists. To this day, Beijing will not permit any investigation into the Chinese origins of COVID-19.

For the Biden administration to renew the U.S.-China Science and Technology Agreement while China stonewalls is a slap in the face to the families of COVID-19’s victims. And an invitation to future disasters.

The administration’s statement that it is negotiating a “good intentions clause” from China that joint research is only for peaceful purposes is disturbingly naive.

“Good intentions” is a laugh line. In January, a study published from Beijing announced the creation of a lab-mutated virus—a coronavirus cousin—that produces agonizing illness and a 100 percent death rate in “humanized” mice. There was no indication the lab had taken rigorous biosecurity steps. To call this reckless is an understatement; mad is more like it.

European scientists polled this week on the likeliest cause of a future pandemic point to flu viruses but say the next biggest risk is “Disease X,” a microorganism appearing out of the blue, like COVID-19.

Fair warning. The U.S. should not be funding or collaborating to make the next China-created killer.


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