China Gets Wuhan Lab Leak Revenge by Doubling Down on U.S. Bioweapons Claim

China has doubled down on Russia's claims that American-made biological and chemical weapons were being developed in Ukraine, a day after the White House rebuked Beijing for echoing Moscow's "conspiracy theories" and the Pentagon described the accusations as "malarkey."

China is ostensibly neutral on Russia's military campaign against Ukraine—although it doesn't call it an "invasion" and rarely uses the word "war." But earlier this week, it helped the Kremlin complete a classic disinformation loop that the United States believes could be a false flag operation and a portent of more atrocities to come.

At a daily media briefing on Tuesday, Zhao Lijian, a spokesperson for China's Foreign Ministry, read a news report about Russian troops who allegedly discovered that Ukrainian authorities had destroyed evidence of a biological weapons program in the country. Zhao's remarks were then picked up by Russian news agency TASS, which had earlier quoted Russian Defense Ministry spokesperson Major General Igor Konashenkov as the source of the claim.

On Thursday, Zhao was twice asked to produce evidence of the charge, which the Russians said had come in the form of deadly pathogens including plague, anthrax, cholera and tularemia. The Chinese official didn't elaborate, but said Beijing opposes the research and development of biological and chemicals weapons—as does the U.S.

Zhao urged Washington to "provide comprehensive clarifications" and allow "multilateral inspections" of its military research facilities inside and outside of American territory. "The U.S. should face up to the concerns of the international community," he said, before demanding that the U.S. destroy its chemical weapons stockpiles.

Biological research facilities exist in Ukraine as in most countries, but they don't produce biological weapons, the State Department told Newsweek on Wednesday.

Earlier in the day, John Kirby, the spokesperson for the Department of Defense, called Russia's accusations "laughable." "And you know, in the words of my Irish Catholic grandfather, a bunch of malarkey. There's nothing to it. It's classic Russian propaganda."

An indication of the seriousness of the Moscow-Beijing double pivot came in the form of a Twitter thread by White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki, who said the U.S. had taken note of China's echoing of "false claims."

"The United States is in full compliance with its obligations under the Chemical Weapons Convention and the Biological Weapons Convention and does not develop or possess such weapons anywhere," she said, having called the conspiracy theories "preposterous."

"Now that Russia has made these false claims, and China has seemingly endorsed this propaganda, we should all be on the lookout for Russia to possibly use chemical or biological weapons in Ukraine, or to create a false flag operation using them. It's a clear pattern," Psaki said.

Two weeks into Vladimir Putin's war on Ukraine, China's support for Moscow has largely come in the form of backing Russian pushback against NATO and refusing to join global sanctions. But China's state-owned newspaper China Daily offered a hint as to why Beijing is happy to peddle Moscow's disinformation about bioweapons—revenge.

In a March 10 editorial, the paper said the U.S. had "repeatedly claimed" that COVID-19 originated in a laboratory in Wuhan, China, even after a team of WHO-backed experts assessed it to be "extremely unlikely."

While the Biden White House has supported WHO efforts to conduct a second, more thorough investigation, including by examining facilities in and around Wuhan, the words "lab leak" haven't been uttered in the same context. During the previous administration, however, it appeared to be the prevailing theory—former President Donald Trump still believes it to be true.

"Now the shoe is on the other foot," China Daily declared. "The world deserves the right to know," it said.

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China Doubles Down On U.S. Bioweapons Claim
China’s Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian takes a question at the daily media briefing in Beijing, China, on April 8, 2020. China is helping Russia complete disinformation loops about the existence of U.S.-funded biological weapons in Ukraine after repeating Moscow’s propaganda on March 8 and 10, 2022. GREG BAKER/AFP via Getty Images