Wuhan COVID-19 Pandemic: Natural or Manmade?

Wuhan, China/ Image: CNN

Even as this paper is being written, the worldwide coronavirus cases crossed 1,000,000 and the deaths crossing 50,000. This pandemic is likely to have a far-reaching geo-economic impact that could have a major bearing on the evolving global order unless the rest of the world comes together to make China pay for its role in creating this pandemic.

China would claim, with tacit support from the ‘compromised(?)’ WHO that it was more a victim and it was its actions that prevented larger impact. Whether its actions were indeed timely, as claimed by WHO or otherwise is open to question. However, China seems to have unleashed its ‘Three Warfares’[1] Strategy, part of its ‘Unrestricted Warfare (URW)’[2] very early to contain and deflect negative attention.

Chinese President Xi Jinping in Wuhan

Three Warfares Strategy

This strategy, which is a part of URW, was formalized as part of CCP and PLA as far back as 2003[3] when it was incorporated in the Political Works Regulation. Information, Psychological and Legal Warfare forms the three-pronged thrust for ‘Influence Operations’ as part of this strategy. China has been honing its skills and seems to have now achieved some proficiency. It has also created an effective cyber and internet control to deflect negative perceptions.

Consider a simple term now being (mis)used – epicentre. As per the Cambridge Dictionary, an epicentre is the ground zero of a major catastrophe. It is implicit that for any such event – like Wuhan COVID 19 pandemic, there can only be one ground zero – WUHAN. Yet it is disheartening to hear CGTN, CNN, BBC, WHO et al talk of new ‘epicentre’ in Europe and that it is shifting to the USA??? What is meant is new ‘Hot Spots’; yet by using this term so loosely, it deflects attention from China – the main culprit.

By shifting goalposts on patient zero and deleting posts from the internet that indicate otherwise China is covering up for its gross negligence (or was it a planned ‘negligence’?). In early January 2020, reports had emerged that it was in mid-November 2019 that doctors in Wuhan and detected that there was an epidemic emerging. Yet now China appears to create a narrative that patient Zero was detected in mid-November[4]. The spread of the pandemic to Iran, Italy and other countries belies this logic. The linkages with North Italy’s garment industry, Italy’s joining the BRI, with projects all being in North Italy, and the start of this pandemic in North Italy suggest that China has much to hide. Similarly, Iran had sent a high-level delegation to China in October 2019 and had been having these exchanges since August 2019. It is no small wonder then that Qom, where many Chinese backed projects are functioning, was the origin of this epidemic in Iran[5].

Yet these narratives are being overcome by the new articles and opinion pieces that show China in a positive light. The WHO seems to be leading this crusade. If SARS in the Middle East can be named MERS, if a bacterium detected in Sweden in an Indian origin patient be named NDM-1, why has China not been named in either SARS or H1N1 or COVID-19? What makes China so special?

China is playing a marathon, to paraphrase Michael Pillsbury[6], while the rest are unaware of it. Fifty years down the line, while the Middle East and New Delhi would be remembered for these epidemics, no one may remember that the SARS, H1N1 and COVID-19 occurred due to gross negligence by China. That is how China aims to clean its slate of all such activities.

Chinese President Xi Jinping in Wuhan/ Image: FT

Natural or Manmade?

Many researchers are putting out their opinions that the mutation of normal coronavirus with SARS to create this virulent novel-coronavirus has occurred naturally. Be that as it may, they have not provided any counter-evidence to the fact that this could also have been manmade. While this may be difficult to prove, considering the acute censorship of information emanating from China, yet there are some ‘circumstantial evidence’ emanating that all was not well in the Wuhan Institute of Virology.

In January Maj Gen Chen Wei, China’s top military bio-warfare expert was appointed as the head of this Wuhan Lab, sparking conspiracy theories that the coronavirus outbreak was linked to this lab[7]. The jury is still out on this, the appointment of a PLA general to control the lab does raise suspicions. There had been rumours that an infected animal (or animals) was sold in this seafood market leading to this contagion.

On 26 January 2020, China unveiled its 8 members Leading Small Group to counter this epidemic, after obfuscating and denying the existence of this disease[8]. The composition raised eyebrows as many amongst the group had spent their life in furthering CCP’s propaganda. It seems that the aim, apart from limiting the already widespread damage that this epidemic had caused, was to contain the damage to China’s international image. And it seems to be succeeding to some extent.

To grasp the damage that this would have done to China itself, it is important to understand the key location of Wuhan. It is a major transportation and logistics hub and has served as China’s capital twice earlier – in 1927 under the left wing of Kuomintang, and for ten months as the wartime capital in 1937 during the second Sino-Japanese War. It is one of the nine political, financial, commercial, cultural and educational centres of Han Heartland. It is for this reason that when Xi Jinping created the Joint Logistics Support Force (JLSF), during the ongoing reorganization and restructuring of the PLA since December 2015, it was HQ in Wuhan.

It is unlikely that Xi Jinping would not have grasped the extent of damage that this contagion would do to China. However, unlike during the SARS outbreak in November 2002, when China preferred to hide the contagion till February 2003, it was not networked deeply in the globalized world. At that time, it may have wanted to cover up this epidemic fearing for the economic backlash that would have occurred if the foreign companies had moved their bases out to other emerging economies in the region. The CCP would not have survived such an economic disaster.

However, with its extensive economic network (including its vast BRI network) with the rest of the world, it appears that Xi Jinping took a calculated risk to keep the lid on this epidemic till as late as feasible. He seems to have calculated that when the rest of the world would be struggling to cope with this epidemic and face economic lockdowns China would step in and capture new markets. Is he playing with fire? Has China recovered? There have been disturbing reports that even as the epidemic was uncontrolled, China had shifted over 80000 Uyghurs from the concentration camps in Xin Jiang to factories in Han Heartland to restart factories[9]. How many more have been sent since then?

These do indicate towards a manmade strategy for creating this pandemic, which has either created this epidemic, or utilized the epidemic to evolve into a pandemic through its land and sea corridors of BRI and the global supply chains, plus its vast tourist outreach.

Way Ahead

China has been a regular defaulter in such epidemics, SARS in 2002 and H1N1in 2009 being the previous cases. In the words of Ian Fleming (Gold Finger, 1959) ‘Once is happenstance, twice is coincidence but a third time Sir is enemy action’. This is where China is at, a third will full obfuscation leading to such a vast pandemic. It needs to be called out and be made to pay so heavily that future generations would think multiple times before such will full acts.

China should be taken to the ICJ on charges of will full genocide through this pandemic and CCP leadership be held guilty on all counts. If it fails to accept it, China should be considered an outcast and be removed from the UN and all International Institutions. Also, all countries and MNCs should disassociate from all China-led ‘shadow organisations’[10]. Concurrently China should be forced to cover the economic losses that would be incurred by the rest of the World due to it.

This article was originally published by the United Service Institute (USI)


[1] The PLA’s Latest Strategic Thinking on the Three Warfares, Elsa Kania, 22 August 2016, China Brief Vol 16: Issue 13, Jamestown Foundation,  https://jamestown.org/program/the-plas-latest-strategic-thinking-on-the-three-warfares/

[2] Unrestricted Warfare (Literally – Warfare Beyond Rules), Senior Colonels Qiao Liang and Wang Xiangsui, February 1999, Beijing: PLA Literature and Arts Publishing House

[3] China Brief, op cit

[4] https://www.businesstoday.in/latest/trends/china-first-coronavirus-case-can-be-traced-back-to-nov-17-report/story/398174.html

[5] Strategic Partnership with China Lies at the Root of Iracounter this epidemic, after obfuscating and down playingn’s Coronavirus Outbreak, Benoit Faucon, Sune Engel Rasmussen and Jeremy Page, 11 March 2020, Wall Street Journal

[6] The Hundred Year Marathon: China’s Strategy to replace America as the Global Super Power, Michael Pillsbury, St. Martin’s Griffin; Reprint edition 15 March 2016

[7] China ‘appoints its top military bio-warfare expert to take over secretive virus lab in Wuhan’, sparking conspiracy theories that coronavirus outbreak is linked to Beijing’s army, Billie Thompson, 14 February 2020, The Daily Mail UK, https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-8003713/China-appoints-military-bio-weapon-expert-secretive-virus-lab-Wuhan.html

[8] The CCP’s New Leading Small Group for Countering the Coronavirus Epidemic—and the Mysterious Absence of Xi Jinping, John Dotson, 05 February 2020, China Brief Volume 20: Issue 3, Jamestown Foundation, https://jamestown.org/program/the-ccps-new-leading-small-group-for-countering-the-coronavirus-epidemic-and-the-mysterious-absence-of-xi-jinping/

[9] China transferred detained Uighurs to factories used by global brands – report, https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/mar/01/china-transferred-detained-uighurs-to-factories-used-by-global-brands-report

[10] China’s Shadow Foreign Policy: Parallel Structures Challenge the Established International Order

By Sebastian Heilmann, Moritz Rudolf, Mikko Huotari and Johannes Buckow, MERICS China Monitor, Number 18, 28 October 2014

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The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Kootneeti Team

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Maj Gen Rajiv Narayanan

Maj Gen Rajiv Narayanan, AVSM, VSM, is Head at Centre for Strategic Studies and Simulation at the USI of India. He's retired after 37 years of distinguished service, as the ADGMO (B) in 2016, having been closely involved with Future Strategy, Force Structures and Force Modernisation. He can be reached at klrajiv.n@gmail.com

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