Since Washington launched the Wuhan lab leak investigation, Beijing has been pushing bizarre narratives.
When the Biden administration announced it would reexamine the theory that COVID-19 originated in a Chinese lab, Beijing’s response was deny and deflect. Asked at a May 27 press conference about the U.S. investigation into a possible virus leak at the Wuhan Institute of Virology, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian quickly changed the subject. “What secrets are hidden in the suspicion-shrouded Fort Detrick and the over 200 U.S. biolabs all over the world?” he asked in response.
Since then, Chinese diplomats and government officials, in concert with China’s vast propaganda apparatus and covert networks of online agitators and influencers, have worked diligently to focus suspicion on Fort Detrick, a U.S. Army biological research facility in Frederick, Maryland, about 50 miles from Washington. According to data collected by the Alliance for Securing Democracy’s Hamilton 2.0 Dashboard, at least 35 key Chinese officials and state media outlets have mentioned Fort Detrick in more than 115 tweets in nine languages since Zhao’s press conference. Many of those tweets have attempted to smear the lab’s reputation, for example by alleging the U.S. lab is “inextricably linked” with Japan’s notorious Unit 731, a germ warfare unit that targeted China during World War II.