China's Foreign Minister and State Councilor, Wang Yi, has all but claimed that coronavirus did not originate in China, a claim that runs in the face of established evidence available so far. Coming from Beijing's top diplomat, the claim has gone all the way to negate the views of several scientists, researchers and foreign governments.
Wang made the claim during his visit to Norway on Thursday. He said it is still unclear if the coronavirus first originated in China, casting doubts on the views of China has been facing backlash from several governments including the United States for failing to handle the coronavirus outbreak. Moreover, Wang's remarks also refute claims from several quarters that the virus was manmade in a Wuhan lab.
Amazing Example of Statecraft
Wang, who is on an official visit to Norway, said that although China was the first country to report the existence of the deadly coronavirus to the World Health Organization (WHO), "it does not mean that the virus originated in China". Wang, who was speaking with the help of an interpreter, also said that China has been closely studying how the virus emerged in other countries and it believes that there is a possibility the origin may not be in Wuhan.
"Actually, for the past months, we have seen reports ... showing that the virus emerged in different parts of the world, and may have emerged earlier than in China," he said. China has been trying for an image makeover amid allegations of Beijing concealing facts about the virus outbreak to the WHO in the initial stages. Wang's wordplay is definitely an attempt toward that direction to come out clean from the accusations that has tarnished its image further over the past few months.
Playing his Diplomatic 'Trump' Card
The United States has particularly been critical of China and has often accused Beijing of failure in handling the virus in the initial stages that led to its spread across the world. This has further soured relations between Washington and Beijing over the past few months. Though Wang didn't directly rebuke President Donald Trump, he said: "Where did the virus first start and how it started ... should be left to scientists and medical experts ... It should not politicized or stigmatized," he said, adding that the world still doesn't know "who is patient zero".
Needless to say, Wang, like many other Chinese diplomats, is trying to rebuild a clean image of China given that it has drawn immense international ire over the past few months. Moreover, the Wuhan Institute of Virology has drawn the international spotlight in recent months because the novel coronavirus is believed by many to have been manmade and originated in Wuhan.
Wang's remarks come just days after reports emerged that Wuhan scientists have been secretly testing deadly pathogens in collaboration with Pakistan for the past few years. However, both China and Pakistan have vehemently denied the allegations. That said, it is well understood that Beijing has briefed its diplomats to make a tactful moves to rebuild the country's image.