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Wednesday, 14 July 2021 07:19

Lab Leak Blues

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After being cast as a conspiracy theory, the idea that the Covid virus originated in a Wuhan laboratory and leaked - or was leaked - into the Wuhan community has now gained currency and respect.  Even reputable scientists and others now hold that the leak theory is at least plausible.


Suddenly it is respectable, if not hip, to believe that the Wuhan virus originatedin a laboratory and not with diseased bats in a wet market.  Things have moved quickly for the lab leak theory these past days.  The hitherto much praised Tony Fauci has gone from rabid lab leak denier to cautious lab leak believer to revealed lab leak enabler, at something approaching mach speed.

On the face of it, it is a little baffling why believing in the lab leak theory was given such shrill, short shrift, at least until a week or so ago.  After all, we know that biological warfare and the research that underpins it are real and serious.  We also know that medical research into coronaviruses and much else besides is global and ongoing, post SARS 1.  And we also know that the Chinese Communist Party is generally up to no good in its relentless progress towards global domination.  Pondering any or all of these things when considering the origins of Covid is not remotely controversial.

On closer inspection, the early dismissal of lab leak theory is blindingly obvious. 

There are four reasons why those who thought the Chinese did it were sent to digital Coventry, ignored, or pilloried.  First (of course), Trump articulated it.  This was, of itself, sufficient for many to dismiss the theory, whatever its merits.  Second, there is a large constituency willing to give China a pass on just about anything, to generally think well of the Chinese regime.  These people, leftists (to be expected), Chinese assets in Western universities, ex-politicians of all persuasions on the Beijing payroll, and those who simply do well out of selling goods and services to the Chinese, and don’t want to see the boat rocked over pesky issues like human rights, all benefit from dissing the lab leak theory.  This is quite a constituency.  The Chinese have a great attention to imperialist detail, and many useful idiots in the West, as any reader of Clive Hamilton’s excellent books on China will know.  Third, there is massive overlap between those who favour totalitarian lockdowns and those who have affection for the Chinese regime.  And fourth, believing that the Chinese either deliberately or accidentally let out a man-made virus smacks of “conspiracy theory”.  This charge, along with “anti-vaxxer” and “granny killer”, has been the default argument against lockdown opponents.  In the Covid Wars, the “conspiracy theory” that the Chinese engineered the whole thing has proven a powerful card to be played.

What do we make of all these claims, now that evidence has emerged that the idea wasn’t so far-fetched after all?

President Xi has famously said that China had a very good year in 2020.  The Year of the Rat, as it happened.  A great Covid all round.  What was not to love?  The West on its knees, economically, psychologically, socially, governmentally.  Wracked by division.  China’s savage Wuhan response lauded, indeed copied globally.  New opportunities for collaboration with the Davos cabal and the “great reset” that both parties welcome, indeed drive.  The creation of a major diversion whereby a wounded, pre-occupied West merely watches on as the Chinese turn their attention to Taiwan and other destinations.  The creation of a giant money-spinning vaccine production line to “cure” the virus that China itself propagated and dispersed.  Best of all – Trump dispatched and the Beijing Bidens in the Big House.  If anything, Xi was being very, very modest.

As Matt Ridley has pointed out, there are two lab leak theories, which confuses things.  One is that the leak was accidental, the other that it was deliberate, malevolent and strategic.  It is the latter than especially exercised the conspiracy deniers, who were determined that the Chinese Communist Party be exonerated.  There is no need to be drawn into highly plausible “conspiracy” hypotheses about the massive benefits to China of the events of the past year and a half.  Let us stick to known facts, and the most relevant of these here is that there was massive “convergent opportunism” exercised by all concerned. 

First there was the original leak.  Then the virus’s transmission to thousands of Northern Italy based Chinese garment workers who happened to be visiting Wuhan or its mate-city on the Chinese coast for Chinese New Year.  Then the return of these same Chinese/Italians to a country fed by multiple weekly flights to and from China as well as third world medical facilities and a Covid age profile begging to be decimated.  Closely followed by the panicked reaction of the first domino, the Italian Government.  Then the subsequent panicked reactions of subsequent domino governments across Europe and beyond, who took their orders in relation to non-pharmaceutical interventions from the (conveniently) Beijing-controlled World Health Organisation. 

Later on, there was the coming to power of a new class of bureaucrat, with power never previously dreamt of.  As the initially acclaimed Neil Ferguson – Professor Pantsdown himself – let slip, we never thought the people would let us get away with it.  Then we had the vaccine billionaires, the feted, re-elected politicians, the newly cashed-up businesses getting fat on taxpayer-funded jobkeeper lurks, the furloughed employees enjoying working from home, the comfy public servants and the rest.  Not to mention the Democratic Party and assorted never-Trumpers, the biggest winners of all.  Oh, and Big Tech, which has now the seemingly unassailable power to decide what and what does not get published about Covid.  There was a massive shift in wealth and power from small business to big business.  Crony capitalism 2.0. 

Oh yes, there was plenty of convergent opportunism to go around.  Any or all of these events might be put down to policy dumbness and political panic.  Yes, there were bungles galore.  Whatever was or wasn’t planned by the ruling class, those who have gained from the Covid State can be easily identified.

Future historians will have much to consider.  There is a tee shirt that has on it the statement, “I am not a conspiracy theorist, I just do my research”.  Indeed.  Those who will look back with insight and perspective on the events of the Year of Living Covidly might well be far more critical of the mad crowds who blindly followed the patently flawed, self-serving and forever changing advice of public health tsars and modellers who duped them and stole their freedoms, than of the sceptics among us.  The panjandrums of ill-repute created a monster that didn’t, after all, eat the world.  Those who swallowed their propaganda and galloped lemming-like over the cliff, will have questions to answer.

Now that it is okay to bag China and to wonder aloud how a nation like ours has come to be half-owned by another (communist) nation – also a very recent development – we should, perhaps, turn the tables and take a look at the credibility of those who DON’T think the virus came from a lab.  Bagging Trump is mighty fashionable but little more than that.  It is intellectually lazy and will be shown in the fullness of time to have been foolhardy.  Trump was right on blaming China, on closing borders very early, on non-mask wearing, on the importance of opening up the economy as soon as possible, on the early and urgent need to develop vaccines as one element of a comprehensive Covid response. He was also right on Covid cures, something that, as the prominent and wise Texan medical scholar Dr Peter McCullough has pointed out, may cause the obsessive lock-downers to reflect on in the future as their greatest (of many) failures.

As Trump derangement syndrome and reflexive China worship recede, those who were quick to dismiss lab leak theory might come to be seen as the real conspiracy theorists.  Those of us prone to scepticism, an appreciation of realpolitik, a predisposition to real analysis and possessing the perspective that comes from observing history, might just come to be seen as perceptive and prescient.  Bring on the debate.

Paul Collits

Paul Collits is a freelance writer and independent researcher who lives in Lismore New South Wales.  
He has worked in government, industry and the university sector, and has taught at tertiary level in three different disciplines - politics, geography and planning and business studies.  He spent over 25 years working in economic development and has published widely in Australian and international peer reviewed and other journals.  He has been a keynote speaker internationally on topics such as rural development, regional policy, entrepreneurship and innovation.  Much of his academic writing is available at
His recent writings on ideology, conservatism, politics, religion, culture, education and police corruption have been published in such journals as Quadrant, News Weekly and The Spectator Australia.
He has BA Hons and MA degrees in political science from the Australian National University and a PhD in geography and planning from the University of New England.  He currently has an adjunct Associate Professor position at a New Zealand Polytechnic.