Former U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and his China Policy advisor Maochun Yu recently co-authored an opinion piece in the Wall Street Journal, “China’s Negligence Costs the World Highly: Beijing Is Obsessed with Viruses, but Doesn’t Care About Biosecurity. By pointing out many specific examples, the article shows that the global pandemic of the new coronavirus is not unconnected with China’s great leap forward in launching a biological virus research campaign and ignoring internationally accepted biosecurity measures. Voice of America interviewed Yu Maochun, one of the authors of the article, for further clarification on the specific examples covered in the article.
Reporter: Why does the article focus on biosecurity?
Yu Maochun: The pandemic of the New coronavirus outbreak reflects the nature of the Chinese communist regime. The CCP is one of the most theoretically poisoned communist parties, its theory is Marxism-Leninism, but fundamentally on two points, the first is the great and glorious correctness of the Communist Party, and the second is the superiority of the socialist system. The history of the CCP for decades basically revolves around proving the correctness of these two theories through various practices and campaigns to toss China and toss the people. Whether it was the Great Leap Forward, the Cultural Revolution, the reform and opening up, and the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation, it was all to prove these two truths that they believed to be unbreakable.
The SARS virus pandemic in 2003 confused the Chinese Communist Party and left it in the dark as to what was going on. So the energy to make a great leap forward came back. Thus, a great leap forward project was launched, in which the whole country mobilized to study the virus and find out the root cause of the SARS virus and the vaccine. The number of biochemical laboratories in China was then astonishing. There are more than 250 national key laboratories in China, distributed in eight major disciplines, and biochemical laboratories account for 40% of the top priority, and there are dozens of biology institutes up and down the country that study viruses, all to work on this stuff. But, as with the Great Leap Forward of the 1950s, it ignored the human cost to be paid.
As we mentioned in the article, Chinese scientists have discovered nearly 2,000 new viruses in a little over 10 years, while it took the world 200 years to reach that many. (Yu Maochun points out that this is based on what the Chinese Association for Science and Technology, the Chinese Academy of Sciences and CCTV said in their 2019 joint TV show “Science China”). So, with so many viruses being researched in such a country with very poor biosafety management, it is difficult to avoid such an accident that would cause great damage to people’s lives and property. Our focus is not that the virus arose in nature or in a laboratory, our focus is that China has a very unsound biosafety system. This is something that the Chinese Communist Party itself admits, from the general secretary to the grassroots lab directors, that China’s biosafety is not up to par.
Reporter: The article mentions Yuan Zhiming of the Wuhan Institute of Virus Research, did he already see the hidden dangers of biosafety in biological research?
Yu Maochun: Yuan Zhiming, who has long served as party secretary at the Wuhan Institute of Virus Research and is himself a scientist, is well aware of China’s biosafety shortcomings and flaws. He has been a long-Time advocate in China for improving China’s biosafety system, and he has written many articles and even runs an English-language journal called the Journal of Biosafety and Biosecurity Assurance. Among other things, Yuan and many of his peers raised many issues, saying that China’s biosafety was not up to international standards, that conditions were poor, that there was not enough information, that laboratory funding and regional resources were unevenly distributed, that there was a lack of attention from above, and so on.
Reporter: Just about the same time as the Wuhan outbreak, in early January 2020, Li Ning, an academician at China Agricultural University, was sentenced to 12 years in prison for trafficking in laboratory animals and milk. Your article mentions a netizen alleging something similar happened at China’s Wuhan Institute of Virus Research, what is going on?
Yu Maochun: Yes. But those people who questioned it are now gone. Some people have pointed out to their faces the poor management of laboratory animals at the Wuhan Institute of Virus Research, including many monkeys used in experiments, many laboratory animals sold as pets after use, and laboratory staff eating eggs used in experiments, and many of these phenomena and allegations. There are also some people with medical backgrounds who asked to confront Shi Zhengli, the deputy director of the research laboratory, who said she could guarantee with her Life that this was impossible. But she did not dare to confront. So many things inside are not open and not transparent.
Reporter: The article says that the unsound security measures at the Wuhan Institute of Virus Research pose a huge risk to global health, what specifically is it referring to?
Yu Maochun: China introduced the institutional blueprint of the French biological laboratory in Lyon, using French technology to help design. 2015 was completed, when a senior French official went to Wuhan to cut the ribbon, before China and France reached an agreement that stipulates France to send at least 50 researchers to Wuhan Institute of Virus to participate in research. As a result, the Wuhan Virus Institute was completed and not even one French person was allowed in, and the agreement was torn up after it was built. The French side was so upset that one of its directors resigned in protest of the Chinese approach. The Wuhan Institute of Virus Research (WIVR) in China is a standard bearer of international transparency, and it does have many international collaborations with at least six university laboratories and other research institutes in the United States, but these international collaborations are mainly “taking” not “giving”. All of the 30+ full-time researchers at the Wuhan Institute of Virus Research are Chinese, with the exception of one trusted Chinese who works at the University of Texas. This collaboration is skin deep, and its core research is highly classified and exclusionary, not subject to international scrutiny, and very opaque.
The security and management validation process at the Wuhan Virus Institute is also problematic. The Chinese Ministry of Science and Technology evaluated all 75 key biomedical laboratories in China in 2016 and published the results in December 2017. By then, the Wuhan Institute of Virus was already the premier, touted by the official media as the viral institute with the highest biosafety level, authorized to study highly toxic and most dangerous viruses and pathogens. But the Wuhan Institute of Virus Research actually failed to make it to the top 20 “excellent class laboratories,” only one of 46 “good class laboratories. This is a very irresponsible manifestation of the Communist political Culture of quick success and quick profit. Such things have not fundamentally changed since the disastrous Great Leap Forward of the 1950s, which was, as the Communist Party said, the “general line” of socialism and could not be easily changed.
After the Wuhan Virus Institute received the highest biosafety level of P4, two officials from the U.S. Embassy in China, including a biochemist, visited the Wuhan Virus Institute and met with many people and learned a lot about the Institute. After the visit this biochemical expert from the U.S. State Department felt that there was a big problem and reported to the State Department that they had poor safety management procedures, poor quality personnel, and many problems in biochemical safety. At that time, Yuan was the director of the laboratory and Shi Zhengli was the deputy director.
Reporter: The article mentions that the PLA is conducting a biochemical weapons research project at the Wuhan Institute of Virus Research, can you give a specific description?
Yu Maochun: In 2015, the PLA Military Medical Science Press published a book written mainly by biomedical and weapons experts from the Fourth Military Medical University, dedicated to the study of man-made viruses as biochemical weapons. They considered the 2003 Sars virus as a genetic weapon released into China by hostile foreign forces, and very enthusiastically introduced and recommended genetic weapons guided by contemporary science. We also mentioned in our article that the Chinese government informed the International Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention Review Conference (IBTWC) in 2011 that Chinese military experts were studying “creation of artificial pathogens,” “genomics to lay the foundation for pathogen transformation,” “population-specific genetic markers,” and “targeted technologies for drug delivery to make pathogens easier to transmit,” among other biological weapons projects. We also mentioned that in January 2021, U.S. intelligence units had reason to believe that in the fall of 2019 several staff members of the Wuhan Institute of Virus Research, which had secret collaborative research projects with the Chinese military, fell mysteriously ill.
Reporter: Xi Jinping didn’t show up for a long time after the Wuhan outbreak, and the first major thing he did when he came out was biosecurity legislation, why is that and what is your analysis?
Yu Maochun: After the outbreak in early January, Xi Jinping did not say a word about it, but came out to defend himself only a few weeks later under strong pressure from international and domestic public opinion, saying that he chaired a meeting of the Politburo on January 7, specifically on the Epidemic. But what he actually said was not clear. What we do know is that on January 8, the day after the meeting, when the official media was completely blocking information about the epidemic, he spoke about the superiority of the Communist Party, the advancement of socialism, and that Party members must not forget their original intention. So after the epidemic came out he focused not on the epidemic itself but on highlighting the positive image of the party and the superiority of the system. This is the phenomenon of theoretical poisoning, and it cannot be said that the Party has done something that has failed. And when the world was in a hurry, he came out in early February and said that he wanted to legislate immediately, that there were shortcomings and loopholes in the management of biological samples and specimens, and these were his own words. He sternly ordered the Chinese government to immediately enact biosafety laws. If there were no such shortcomings and loopholes, and no such violations had occurred, he would not have had to say such things.
Reporter: The article mentions that after the Wuhan outbreak, the PLA sent a general to take over the facility, and also says that the CCP ordered the destruction of virus samples collected from the earliest patients. Do U.S. intelligence agencies have definitive evidence of this?
Yu Maochun: No need for U.S. intelligence agencies, the Chinese government’s National Health Commission ordered the Wuhan Institute of Virus Research by phone on Jan. 1 and issued document No. 3 on Jan. 2 to destroy the samples and strictly control the publication of the information. There are now rumors in mainland China that it was local officials who could not hide the information from the Party Central Committee, but in fact it was not, but from the top down. The Chinese Communist Party reported that General Chen Wei went there in mid-January. And later she said that in February China’s new crown vaccine was already in mass production. So she had the inside track on the virus long ago, otherwise she couldn’t have bragged about mass production that early.
Reporter: Shi Zhengli’s research on bats is internationally leading. One of the bat viruses she focused on was very similar to the New Guinea virus. But she said she didn’t expect the pandemic to break out in Wuhan.
Yu Maochun: Shi Zhengli thought at the time that all these bats were outside Hubei province, and she was surprised why the virus did not break out in those places, but in Wuhan. In fact, she overlooked the fact that Shi and her colleagues had collected and kept samples of bats with the virus elsewhere for years at the Wuhan Institute of Virus Research. She is the deputy director of the institute’s laboratory, known as Batwoman, and has thousands of specimens. So these things are not growing naturally from the wild in Wuhan, but there are many specimens of these viruses kept in the laboratory of the Wuhan Virus Institute, is it possible that (the new coronavirus outbreak) leaked out from here, this is what we are concerned about. Of course the exact answer must be released by the Wuhan Institute of Virus information, storage system data, its biosafety standards we can know. But we now know that Shi Zhengli wrote this himself and that the research they did on bats in this area is second to none in China. It is an indisputable fact that the Wuhan Institute of Virus Research has a large number of bat specimens with viruses.
Reporter: The WHO has not yet issued an official report after returning from its investigation in China, but its members have concluded in interviews with the media that the virus is “highly unlikely to have come out of the laboratory”, but have recently said that all assumptions will be taken into account. What is your reaction to this?
Yu Maochun: I think the WHO is being extremely irresponsible when they say it is highly unlikely. This is not the first time. Last year the WHO already had a delegation to China, and the Chinese government treated them warmly, but just wouldn’t let them go to Wuhan. They spent one day in Wuhan, not going to the hospital where the outbreak occurred, not going to the virus research institute, just walking around, and the next day the whole delegation left China and went back and wrote some reports praising China for fighting the epidemic. I think the WHO has a difficulty, that is, it does not dare to offend China, its leadership is basically kidnapped by China, but the specific people in charge below are very dissatisfied with China. The U.S. media interviewed many of these people, and the WHO representatives in Geneva and even in Beijing were very unhappy with China’s practices and made numerous requests to China for an investigation, which China refused to do. So, according to my observation, why did the Chinese Communist Party let it in this time? Because they want to go and prove one of the earliest claims of the CCP that the virus came out of the seafood market. They wanted the WHO to find another host, but this animal host could not be found, so the CCP wanted to do this. The WHO didn’t say they couldn’t find it because they didn’t visit many places, they just walked around and looked at it. Just saying how well guarded the Wuhan Institute of Virus Research is and how advanced the biosecurity is is also very irresponsible because many of China’s own researchers think they are not up to par. And there is currently a serious conflict of interest for certain members of this group, who should be the subject of the investigation, but have become the investigators. This is problematic.
Reporter: Why do you think the pandemic would not have been the last disaster humanity faced if the CCP had not changed its Great Leap Forward approach? Maybe Beijing has recognized the problem and taken measures and can still prove that the CCP is “great and gloriously correct” and that “socialism has the strongest mobilizing power”?
Yu Maochun: The Chinese Communist Party has a monopoly on the resources of all of China, and it has a monopoly on the way and channels of contact with Chinese society around the world, so China is a highly centralized, highly monopolistic country. Xi Jinping’s speech in February focused on two points, one is to immediately promulgate a biosafety law, saying that the “shortcomings” and “loopholes” in biosafety should be closed. The second point is to talk about positive energy, to control public opinion and propaganda, to report to the world the heroic deeds of the Communist Party against the epidemic, and to combat any negative reports, such as the suppression of Fang Fang and others. The Communist Party has been consistent in self-beautifying its image. This sense of its self-goodness has basically remained unchanged since 1949 or even since the founding of the party. Such eagerness for success and profit and lack of practicality has brought countless disasters to the Chinese people, and now that China wants to lead the world, of course the world will be very anxious and worried. So we hope the Chinese Communist Party will lower its ambition and be more pragmatic. China is a big country and the Chinese people are very remarkable, but it cannot cause another huge disaster because of these established policies of the Chinese Communist Party that are so eager for success and profit, which the Chinese people have seen a lot, so this epidemic is another big lesson.
Reporter: The Global Times published an article criticizing your article for “continuing to speculate on the so-called ‘new coronavirus leaking from the lab’ despite the disinformation from WHO experts about the conspiracy theory. What was your reaction to this?
Yu Maochun: They published several articles, including one that said Pompeo is “a politician” and “a liar” and that Yu Maochun is a “so-called” expert on China. Some of the articles are full of critical diatribes of the Cultural Revolution and political analysis and speculation, but they do not provide any convincing rebuttal to the specific examples we presented.