European Commission Vice President Frans Timmermans talks during a joint press conference on the EU’s climate ambition for 2030 at EU headquarters in Brussels, Belgium, September 17, 2020. (John Thys/Pool via Reuters)
It is good that the European Union is joining the Biden administration in declaring the origin of the COVID-19 pandemic unknown, not ruling out the lab-leak theory, and calling for “a transparent, evidence-based” probe “that is free from interference.”
The problem is that anybody with eyes can see that there’s probably less than a 5 percent chance of China genuinely cooperating. So, the real question is, what is the Biden administration, E.U,, and others willing to do in response to China’s refusal to cooperate?
For Xi Jinping, the consequences of cooperation are probably much worse than any consequences for blocking an independent investigation. Even if China did cooperate, the best case scenario for them would be a zoonotic origin, probably tracing back to a wet market, which would lead the world to the conclusion that more than 3.7 million people have died because China can’t run clean, hygienic, and appropriately-inspected meat markets. Any truly independent investigation will conclude that even a with zoonotic origin, the pandemic became a worldwide calamity in part because China kept lying to the World Health Investigation and withholding genetic data, in violation of international law. Any independent investigation is going to conclude that a serious problem became a global catastrophe because of the deliberate actions of Beijing.
This is going to be a conflict, and center-left politicians, officials and diplomats hate conflicts – at least with foreign opponents. They like summits and conferences and multilateral committees and joint statements and communicates full of reassuring, bland language. None of those traditional happy-talk approaches will generate any real answers.
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