The Suspicion Campaign

Berlin joins US allegations against China on the Covid-19 pandemic outbreak.

BERLIN |

BERLIN (Own report) - The German government is joining the US campaign of allegations against China regarding the Covid-19 pandemic outbreak. Last weekend, US President Donald Trump warned the People's Republic that it should face consequences if it was "knowingly responsible" for the spread of the pandemic. Washington is simultaneously spreading deliberate rumors that the virus could have originated in a Chinese laboratory. Whereas, scientists vehemently refute the allegations, German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas declared, he "does not want to exclude" that the WHO will have to deal with these issues. On Monday, Chancellor Angela Merkel called on Beijing to show "transparency" on the issue. Senior German military officials have recently been demanding that the EU adopt "a joint political-strategic response" to China's growing strength, because in the Corona crisis, Beijing is gaining considerable influence. According to a recent poll, more than half of the Italian population sees China as a "friend," while nearly half see Germany as an "enemy."

Deliberate Rumors

The German government is joining the Trump administration's new campaign against China, albeit attenuated. On the weekend, President Trump claimed that the virus "could have been stopped in China" and warned that the People's Republic "should face consequences" if it was "knowingly responsible" for the spread.[1] At the same time deliberate rumors are being spread in the United States that the Covid-19 virus could have originated in a Chinese laboratory - possibly in bioweapons lab. The US government indicated that it does not rule out this possibility; US intelligence services are currently investigating the issue. Particularly given the lie about Iraq's alleged weapons of mass destruction, such an allegation must be perceived as a threat to lend legitimacy to new aggressions. There is no proof that the virus originated in a laboratory. Scientific studies clearly conclude that it was transmitted from wild animals to humans.[2]

Open to Suspicion

Berlin is open to entirely unfounded suspicions. Foreign Minister Heiko Maas is quoted saying he "doesn't want to exclude" that "the WHO will have to deal with these issues."[3] The Minister of Development Gerd Müller declared that the People's Republic must display "complete openness" - "particularly regarding the origin of the virus."[4] Already last week, German media organs have increasingly been calling China the "culprit" behind the Covid-19 pandemic outbreak. Under the headline "what China already owes us," Germany's Springer press even called for "reparations." (german-foreign-policy.com reported.[5]) Leading British and French politicians have expressed similar views. British Foreign Minister Dominic Raab has repeatedly declared that China will be held responsible for the Covid-19 pandemic. French President Emmanuel Macron has now joined the campaign. Regarding the pandemic's alleged origin, he declared, "there are clearly things that have happened" in China "that we don’t know about."[6] It is not clear how Macron can know something exists that he does not know about. It is however clear that he seeks to implicate Beijing.

"A Devastating Impression"

Insight into the German-European involvement in the Trump administration's new campaign against China is provided by German military officials' recent statements. A new working paper by the Federal Academy for Security Policy (BAKS), for example, examines the Covid-19 pandemic's potential global political ramifications. The author, Ret. Brig.Gen. Armin Staigis, BAKS Vice-President (2013 - 2015) today's Chair of BAKS "Association of Friends" points out that the USA, "up to now the EU's most important partner" is "eroding in the global context." China, on the other hand, is emerging more and more "on the world stage." "With its economic power, it is reaching the European continent and is thus ... also becoming a political rival."[7] The EU should "not become a pawn" in the hands of states like Russia ("revanchists"), the USA ("off course egocentrics") or China ("hungry up-starts"). The EU "still has to formulate a joint political strategic answer" particularly to the People's Republic's growing strength. This is all the more important in light of the political development in the Corona crisis: "There is a public perception that China is providing faster and more helpful support in Europe than the EU and its member states among themselves." This, however, is a "devastating impression."

Race between the Global Economic Powers

Late last week, General Staff Officer Col. Matthias Rogg, a member of the board of the German Institute for Defense and Strategic Studies (GIDS), a Bundeswehr think tank (founded in 2018) made a similar observation. Rogg assumes that in the course of the Corona crisis, China will significantly enhance its international influence. "That pertains to the economic development in countries, for example in the Middle East or even in Africa, which are not visibly affected by the epidemic, but will surely also be seriously affected by Corona, either directly or indirectly."[8] There, the People's Republic of China will be able to secure new influence "through financial, and material assistance." It should "not be forgotten" that it is completely uncertain "how the USA will economically evolve from this crisis." "That means that in the race between the global economic powers, one can assume that China ... will have a head start and wind up among the winners of the crisis." That is grave - after all, with China, which, for example, has "offered immediate assistance" to Italy, we are "de facto dealing with a country from a rival system."

Enemy Number One

A current survey made in Italy shows the problems German power strategists are confronting. The Italian survey suggests that the suspicion campaign against China is also aimed at affecting Europe. In mid-March it had indicated that around two-thirds of the Italians felt EU membership was disadvantageous to their country. Only four percent felt that the Union was providing sufficient support to Italy during the Corona crisis.[9] Now, since China's most recent Covid-19 assistance delivery, 52 percent of the Italian population see China as a "friend" of Italy; 32 percent consider Russia, who is also providing assistance, a "friend," and only 17 percent place the United States in this category. Among the countries in the survey considered an "enemy" of Italy, first place, with an impressive 45 percent, went to Germany.[10]

 

[1] Trump droht China mit "Konsequenzen". tagesschau.de 19.04.2020.

[2] Vgl. etwa: Kristian G. Andersen, Andrew Rambaut, W. Ian Lipkin, Edward C. Holmes, Robert F. Garry: The proximal origin of SARS-CoV-2. Nature Medicine 26 (2020). S. 450-452.

[3] Nils Metzger: Neue Argumente für Labor-Theorie? zdf.de 17.04.2020.

[4] Darum nimmt die Kritik an Pekings Umgang mit der Coronavirus-Krise zu. tagesspiegel.de 20.04.2020.

[5] See also Battle of Narratives.

[6] Victor Mallet, Roula Khalaf: FT Interview: Emmanuel Macron says it is time to think the unthinkable. ft.com 16.04.2020.

[7] Armin Staigis: Ernstfall Europa - Jetzt! Bundesakademie für Sicherheitspolitik: Arbeitspapier 2/20. Berlin, April 2020.

[8] "China dürfte am Ende zu den Krisengewinnern gehören". cicero.de 17.04.2020.

[9] See also Germany First (II).

[10] Massimiliano Lenzi: Libertà superflua per 2 italiani su 3. iltempo.it 18.04.2020.