The WHO Mission to Wuhan Is Designed to Fail

The WHO Mission to Wuhan Is Designed to Fail
A security person moves journalists away from the Wuhan Institute of Virology after a World Health Organization team arrived for a field visit in Wuhan, China, Feb. 3, 2021 (AP photo by Ng Han Guan).

Editor’s Note: Every Wednesday, WPR contributor Rachel Cheung and Assistant Editor Benjamin Wilhelm curate the week’s top news and expert analysis on China. Subscribers can adjust their newsletter settings to receive China Note by email every week.

After months of bureaucratic delays and two weeks of quarantine in China, international investigators from the World Health Organization finally started their probe into the origins of COVID-19 in Wuhan. The mission began last Thursday amid political tensions and controversy. Less than a week into the trip, the scant information released so far under the watch of Chinese authorities offers little assurance that the team will find anything substantial—just as Beijing intends.

Zhao Lijian, a spokesperson for China’s Foreign Ministry, insisted that both Chinese and WHO experts would “follow the prior consensus” around what Beijing sees as the nature of the mission. “The exchanges and cooperation on origin-tracing between WHO experts and Chinese professionals are part of a global study, not an investigation,” he told reporters. After meeting leaders of key hospitals in Wuhan, the capital of central Hubei province, the team visited unspecified “museums” on the second day of their tour, according to Chinese state media. One of the museums turned out to be a propaganda exhibition celebrating China’s success in containing the pandemic.

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