The Wuhan Warning: Is India ready for a biological war? – Maroof Raza

Wuhan Institute of Virology : This is China's premier biological laboratory.

Maroof RazaAre the Chinese working to a plan? Is the COVID-19 assault on our human race a test of more biological attacks to follow? If so, are we ready for such future attacks? – Maroof Raza

While genomic medical experts maintain that the novel coronavirus spread from bats and wild animals (like Pangolin) in China’s Wuhan—now recognised as the epicentre of the COVID-19 epidemic—few of us know that the city also hosts China’s only and the highest rated level 4 microbiology labs, [the Wuhan Institute of Virology]. And if you put the evidence that is also emerging—and join the dots—then it could have also come from the microbiology labs of Wuhan, whether by design or default. These could have been responsible for the spread of the deadly coronavirus or COVID-19 that has taken thousands of lives and infected hundreds of thousands across the world. This is the other side of the coronavirus or COVID-19 story.

In August 2019, the Canadian police in Winnipeg—where Canada’s only level 4 microbiology research facility is housed—had arrested a Chinese couple on charges of stealing intellectual property; they had visited the Institute of Virology in Wuhan. Ashali Bhagat Varma, a freelance journalist wrote in her blog that Chinese PLA General Zhang Shibo had written about the effectiveness of ethnic genetic attacks in his book New Highland of War (in 2017), and that in 2015, Vice President of the Chinese Academy of Military Medical Sciences, He Fuchu, said that biomaterials were the new “strategic commanding heights” of warfare. Furthermore, as the Chinese authors of Unrestricted Warfare—both Colonels in PLA—argued that “the first rule of unrestricted warfare is that there are no rules, with nothing forbidden”. As Sun Tzu had said, “if the enemy expects you to do three things, do the fourth”.

Add to this, the “vision” for China, defined by their President Xi Jinping in 2017, in which he categorically stated that he wanted China to become a “top-ranked innovative nation by 2035, (and) a nation with pioneering global influence”. Any informed observer would know that global influence comes from a combination of economic heft and military power. All other moral grandstanding and well-meaning initiatives count for little, compared to these factors. China is now the world’s second-largest economy, and even as it continues to strengthen its military capabilities, it is in the bio-chemical warfare sphere that it isn’t up to the standards of the West.

China is currently putting in place five bio-chemical weapon labs, but “between them the US, Europe, Russia and Australia have around 50 functioning or under construction labs, all under maximum-security”, says an article in The New Indian Express Magazine (dated 22 March 2020). But as “the study of dangerous pathogens such as ebola or marburg cannot be conducted without importing the viruses into a country,” there are now reports on how Chinese scientists have been arrested for stealing knowhow and bio-chemical vials from labs in America. This is all part of the New Cold War.

Last week, the US Department of Justice announced the arrest of a Harvard University professor, Dr Charles Lieber (head of the Department of Chemistry and Chemical Biology), for receiving USD 50,000 per month and another USD 1,58,000 for other expenses plus for his affiliation with the Wuhan University of Technology. He was also running a multi-million dollar program to entice other scientists to share their research expertise with China. Also arrested, along with Dr Charles Lieber, was a female researcher Yen Ching Ye, of Boston University (department of physics, chemistry and biomedical engineering) who had hidden her connections with the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) as a lieutenant. And a third Chinese national—Zaosong Zheng—was arrested just as he was boarding his flight to China was caught with stolen 21 vials of biological materials—in his baggage—from his US University’s research centre. His research was sponsored by Harvard University. All this can’t be an accident or a coincidence, as the US spokesman announced.

These arrests are a part of the US Department of Justice’s “Çhina Initiative” to stop and prosecute Chinese economic espionage and theft of intellectual property, to stop the long term Chinese campaign to steal US technologies for its uses. The US Attorney General had recently referred to China as America’s “primary rival”. And the FBI director has stated that “no country poses a greater counterintelligence threat to the US than China”. But now, with thousands of people dead in the western world, there is bound to be a concern in other European countries as well, over what appears as part of China’s ruthless agenda to emerge as the primary power in the world. But China isn’t willing to sit quietly. It has already blamed the US for bringing the virus into China, with Iran echoing its line, that the US has spread the deadly virus, to cripple the Chinese economy. On the face of it, this could be justified on the grounds that the loss to China’s economy was initially projected to be around USD 348 billion and to the US economy about USD 15 billion. But as the world battles the virus, with mixed levels of responses, the Chinese economy is bouncing back. Many factories have reopened, and China is already—would you believe it—producing millions of masks and exporting these to the world!

And for those who continue to insist, that the coronavirus or COVID-19 has killed a large number of Chinese too, the counter is, this is because China allowed the virus to spread after it was first reported in Wuhan city on 1st December last year (2019). And Beijing then waited for another two weeks for Wuhan’s doctors to confirm that the virus was spreading following contact between humans. By late December’19, hospitals in Wuhan had witnessed an “exponential” rise in cases with what we know now were COVID-19 symptoms, even though these cases—reportedly—could not be linked to the Hunan seafood wholesale market. Were these cases the new guinea pigs? Doctors like Dr Li Wenliang, who spoke about such a disease and that it could lead to an epidemic, were disciplined for making public statements. He later died of the disease. Remember, that at least 45 million deaths occurred in China during Mao’s “Great Leap Forward” from 1958 to 1962. It apparently hadn’t bothered Mao. And as the legacy of Mao guides the Chinse leadership even today, a few thousand deaths won’t bother them now.

The questions that must concern us is in India are:

  1. Are the Chinese working to a plan?
  2. Is the COVID-19 assault on our human race, a test of more biological attacks to follow? And if so
  3. Are we ready for such future attacks?

Prime Minister Narendra Modi has done well to move fast towards a nationwide lockdown. But in the event of a bio-chemical attack on India, not just by China—as its initial aim is to cripple its real challengers in the West—but even by a terrorist group, India will be in a tight spot. The New Indian Express report also quoted Lt Gen Vinod Bhatia, a former DGMO, saying that “[T]hough the Indian Army is trained to prepare for chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear attacks, the programmes are on the back burner due to lack of resources.”

And what about the rest of the country? We aren’t prepared at all. India’s vast population spread, dismal health facilities, poor connectivity, and with each state government having its own operating procedures for responses, we could be in a hopeless situation in the event of a bio-chemical attack, the scale of which could be far, far bigger than the fatality and infection from the current COVID-19. – TimesNowNews, 30 March 2020

Maroof Raza is a commentator on Indian military and security issues and a consulting editor  for strategic affairs at Times Now.


 

2 Responses

  1. Biological Warfare

    What we are witnessing now is an extraordinary demonstration of the effectiveness of bio warfare. It does not matter how this particular episode originated because the consequences are an unprecedented illustration of how nations can easily be brought to their knees in weeks. This will not go unnoticed by terrorist organisations and many of them will deploy skills to acquire a capacity to wage similar bio warfare. It is also noteworthy that such bio warfare is extremely easy to wage if the lethal viruses can be obtained. A few people entering the target country and travelling around it can cause utter havoc within weeks. The country’s economy and society can be disabled and its ability to resist severely compromised. Such a modus vivendi of assault will also allow deniability. An indirect threat to conduct bio warfare can be issued though unrelated third parties and used as a discreet powerful bargaining chip.

    India needs to assemble a team to study the manifold implications of a similar or even worse episode by reviewing the current experience and by analysing data generated by it. I am sure multiple scenarios can be postulated and the required responses in such a dire eventuality.

    However, such a potential bio warfare threat can equally be encountered by many other countries, including Islamic regimes that face domestic dissent as well as all major powers around the world. What they need to collectively agree is that they will treat a threat to any one country of bio warfare as an attack on all of them. And the need to respond collectively to provide aid to the impacted country. An agreement is also imperative to treat the likely national origin of the bio warfare assault as a country that is engaging in war and meriting immediate military sanction. They must also collectively refuse to make any concessions to the terrorists and indeed initiate changes on the ground that completely repudiate the demands made, e.g. the mass transfer of populations. Existing international treaties on bio warfare need to be revisited as a matter of urgency and strengthened, for example, by insisting on compulsory international surveillance. Those countries which refuse should be expelled from international organisations and their nationals denied all travel. Existing international treaties also provide a basis for specific additional preemptive measures, including the threat of decisive military action, to be undertaken in order to combat this truly extraordinary threat to global welfare.

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  2. Cremation urns in Wuhan

    WUHAN COVID-19 DEATH TOLL MAY BE IN TENS OF THOUSANDS, DATA ON CREMATIONS SUGGEST – CHRISTINA ZHAO – NEWSWEEK – 29 MARCH 20

    A stack of urns at a funeral home in Wuhan, the city’s official cremation rates, and reports of an overwhelmed health care system have prompted speculation that Wuhan’s real COVID-19 death toll could be in the tens of thousands===despite the Chinese government reporting 2,535 deaths from just over 50,000 coronavirus infections.

    The coronavirus outbreak was first identified in Wuhan, Hubei in December 2019, before it then spread around the world, killing more than 33,000 globally as of Sunday. China’s aggressive containment methods have slowed the virus domestically, with official new cases reported plummeting in the past few weeks. So far, Beijing has confirmed roughly 81,000 cases and 3,300 deaths, mostly in Wuhan, the epicenter of the virus’ outbreak. But many people, including U.S. politicians, have accused China of underplaying their real coronavirus death figure.

    Their skepticism were sparked by Chinese officials’ attempts to cover up the severity of the outbreak in the early stages—before the disease became widespread overseas—and the numerous revisions made to how domestic cases are counted. Wuhan’s medical system was overwhelmed during the height of the outbreak in China, which further raises questions as to the officially reported 2,535 deaths.

    In 2019, Wuhan also saw 56,007 cremations, a figure 1,583 higher than 2018, and 2,231 more than 2017, according to data released by the Wuhan civil affairs agency. In 2019, the Wuhan population grew by only 1.1 percent from 2018, according to a U.N. projection. While these figures are suggestive of an increase in the city’s death rate above the population growth figure, they’re not conclusive.

    Photos began circulating across Chinese social media this week of urns arriving in the epicenter of the outbreak, after families who had lost loved ones to the novel coronavirus were instructed to pick up cremated ashes from one of the local funeral homes in the city. These images raised a fresh round of questions about the real coronavirus death toll in China, with domestic citizens and international critics using the number of urns to accuse the Chinese government of lying about their figures.

    Newsweek reached out to the office of Chinese Ambassador to the United States Cui Tiankai via email for comment. The Chinese Foreign Ministry was also contacted for comment, but a response was not received in time for publication.

    Trucks dropped off roughly 2,500 urns on Wednesday and again on Thursday local time to one of the eight local funeral homes, a driver told Chinese media outlet Caixin. The news site also published another photo showing 3,500 urns stacked inside the facility. The number of urns that arrived in that one funeral home was far greater than the city’s official overall death COVID-19 toll.

    Some Wuhan residents estimate that the coronavirus death toll could be 26,000, based on the amount of urns being delivered and distributed across the city. Citizens on Chinese social media have said that seven Wuhan funeral homes will likely distribute 3,500 urns per day on average from March 23 to April 4, which marks Qing Ming, the traditional tomb-sweeping festival. By that estimate, 42,000 urns would be given out in the 12-day period.

    By subtracting the expected deaths of roughly 16,000 in Wuhan, based on China’s annual death rate over two and a half months, they estimate that the urns show that the coronavirus outbreak could have resulted in approximately 26,000 deaths. It is currently unclear, however, how many of the urns have been used.

    Math based on urns, assumptions and social media isn’t anything to go by. But it offers one estimation of the city’s real death figure and further lends credence to the skepticism held by many of the accuracy of the Chinese government’s officially reported Wuhan COVID-19 death tally.

    Republican Senator Tom Cotton of Arkansas cited the urn deliveries on Sunday to accuse China of misrepresenting the impact of the virus. “A *single mortuary* in Wuhan reportedly ordered more urns in two days than the Chinese Communist Party has reported total deaths in the whole country,” he tweeted. “I’m sure you’re shocked by evidence of Chinese lies.”

    The U.S. and Italy have both surpassed China in confirmed COVID-19 cases. America on Saturday became the first country to confirm over 100,000 cases of the novel coronavirus.

    Update: The fourth quarter number of cremations in Wuhan reported by Chinese authorities represents a total annual figure for the year, rather than between October, November and December. This article has been updated to clarify that the number of cremations is an annual figure. While this remains suggestive of an increase in death rate, it is not conclusive.

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