Brownstone » Brownstone Institute Articles » China’s Culpability for Lockdowns Does Not Depend on the Lab Leak Theory

China’s Culpability for Lockdowns Does Not Depend on the Lab Leak Theory


Currently, there are two politically-popular theories as to how SARS-CoV-2 came about: The Wuhan lab theory and the pangolin, or wet market, theory. Use of the word “theory” is generous in this context, because both theories have compelling critics. 

As an initial matter, many commentators have noted SARS-CoV-2’s genetic similarity to the original SARS, which they believe might have contributed to early Covid hysteria. Studies have shown “complete genome sequence similarities between SARS-CoV and SARS-CoV-2 are 79.4 ± 0.17 %.”

Is that a lot? Not really. By comparison, humans share over 99% of our genome with chimpanzees; that 1% difference accounts for all civilization, art, language, and technology. Given a 1% genome difference can account for all that, a 21% difference can go a very long way—as it did in the case of SARS, which had a fatality rate about 50 times higher among those with recorded infections than the infection fatality rate ultimately proven for SARS-CoV-2.

So where did SARS-CoV-2 get the scary name? Well, given the mass deaths initially reported by the Chinese, the fact that they were reporting severe respiratory infections, the 79% “similarity” with SARS, and the fact that Chinese media was doing everything in its power to invite comparisons with SARS, the ICTV obliged in February 2020 by calling it “SARS-CoV-2.”

This scary taxonomy was the first of many propaganda victories for the CCP in early 2020. The second was in convincing panicky officials that SARS-CoV-2 might be a supervirus from the Wuhan lab.

Leading health officials across the western world have now disclosed that they were, unbeknownst to the public, fretting about the possibility of a lab leak in January 2020 and saying so to intelligence officials. Meanwhile, the CCP’s lockdown policy was being laundered through the World Health Organization for global dissemination, promoted by legions of propaganda bots, and even advertised by the CCP’s own media outlets. This led to the total convergence of narrative among the world’s major power brokers that caused the world to shut down in March 2020.

As for whether Covid actually came from a lab, the theory’s popularity tends to belie the threadbare evidence in support of it. This isn’t a knock against those who’ve diligently researched the theory, for whom I have the utmost respect. But several coronaviruses have been found which are far more genetically similar to SARS-CoV-2 than any that were held at the Wuhan lab; the primary suspect at the lab, RaTG13, was nowhere near similar enough to SARS-CoV-2 for it to have been derived therefrom. The additional nuggets of “suspicious activity” at the lab, such as three workers falling ill with flu-like symptoms in November 2019, are weak and make no chronological sense.

Part of the problem is that much of the evidence refuting the lab leak theory comes from scientists on the political left, who’ve so thoroughly debased themselves on this subject. It’s testament to the CCP’s dark sense of humor—riddled throughout the response to Covid—that they were able to convince the left it was woke to support the even-more-ridiculous theory that Covid came from some poor Chinese shopkeepers in Wuhan’s Huanan market selling pangolins.

Exponents of the pangolin or wet market “theory” base their belief on the fact that Chinese scientists found a lot of positive Covid cases around the Huanan market in early 2020. Does this mean they found a lot of negative results elsewhere? No, there’s no denominator in their study; the scientists merely conducted a bunch of tests around the Huanan market, found a bunch of cases, and therefore concluded that the virus came from there. For the New York Times and western scientists to sign their names to this farce is a shocking disgrace even by the abysmal standards they’ve set for themselves during Covid.

The overtures that the CCP made to the pangolin theory through its scientists and media outlets gave right-wing hawks the false impression that the CCP was covering up a lab leak. But given the entire western national security community has been chasing the lab leak narrative for two years, you’d think they’d have a bit more to show for it than a few chronologically-challenged fronds of circumstantial evidence. Maybe if we give them another 20 years, they’ll tell us a lab worker’s dog got Covid in 2019 too.

The paucity of evidence in support of both these theories shouldn’t come as a surprise, however, because both implicitly assume that a supervirus really did emerge in Wuhan at the end of 2019. They base this assumption on the following “facts”:

  1. Wuhan residents suddenly began falling to their deaths and convulsing in the streets in early 2020, as shown by all those scary videos that went viral on social media at that time.
  2. The young hero doctor Li Wenliang gave his life to warn us that a supervirus was coming to get us, and Chinese state media even helpfully shared a picture of him holding his identification card to prove it.
  3. The data from Wuhan in early 2020 showed a death rate of 4% and an exponential rise in cases until Xi welded everyone in.
  4. Xi Jinping—the man who’s punished over a million officials for “corruption,” removed term limits from China’s constitution, cut a sixth of the world’s population off from the global internet, and holds millions of religious minorities “infected with extremism” in concentration camps—was just doing his best to save some lives by shutting down Wuhan.

The truth is, we have more than enough evidence that Covid began spreading in countries all over the world far earlier than the end of 2019 to know that both these theories are doubtful. It’s highly unlikely that Covid even began anywhere near Wuhan. The Wuhan origin narrative has all the makings of a false flag.

This is all we know for sure about the origin of SARS-CoV-2: It began spreading, somewhere in the world, by mid-2019 at the latest. Hopefully one day we’ll learn more, but for the time being scientists on both the left and right are busy toeing the CCP’s own propaganda: Agreeing that a supervirus emerged in Wuhan in early 2020, and disagreeing only as to whether it came from a lab or a pangolin.

There is so much more we need to know about the origin but whatever we learn does not affect the really salient point that the idea of lockdowns is totalitarian in origin. 


  • Michael P Senger is an attorney and author of Snake Oil: How Xi Jinping Shut Down the World. He has been researching the influence of the Chinese Communist Party on the world’s response to COVID-19 since March 2020 and previously authored China’s Global Lockdown Propaganda Campaign and The Masked Ball of Cowardice in Tablet Magazine. You can follow his work on Substack


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