Although initial claims by Trump about Covid originating in a Wuhan lab were largely dismissed, in recent weeks the theory has gained traction. President Biden has called for an investigation and report into the possibility that the virus emerged in a lab: this move could be a beneficial one for the future of America’s democracy, says Leslie Vinjamuri, Reader in International Relations at SOAS.
In a recent article for The Telegraph, Vinjamuri commented that ‘President Biden’s public call for US intelligence agencies to investigate the Wuhan lab origins thesis sends a strong signal to Congress, the US public, and the expert community that science and facts will take precedence over partisanship. And it is another critical step in his effort to elevate the role of science in US national security.’
In the wake of Trump and fake news, this commitment to the truth is attractive.’The fact that Biden has demanded an investigation into a thesis that has been so closely associated with Donald Trump also opens the door to a more robust injection of truth into politics,’ says Vinjamuri. ‘It may even nudge others to do the same, that is, to evaluate claims on the basis of fact-based investigations rather than their partisan origins.’
‘Recreating a political and social environment that elevates truth is essential to healing America’s divisions and restoring its democracy.’
However, one must approach this with some skepticism: after all, as Vinjamuri points out, ‘wariness and antagonism towards China are one of the few things remaining that unites Democrats and Republicans.’ However, if the Wuhan lab theory report even suggests an element of truth, subsequent negative public attitudes towards China could, Vinjamuri explains ‘make it harder for the US to achieve its purported goal to compete but also cooperate with China.’
There has still not been a review into the Capitol January attack – so confidence in the US Congress is not altogether rosy. ‘But’, states Vinjamuri, ‘the significance of a serious national investigation into the origins of the coronavirus, one that has been mired in partisan politics, is still a step forward for science and for democracy in the US.’