CHINA ruthlessly exploited the Covid pandemic as part of its goal to achieve global domination, former spy chiefs and diplomats say.
Communist bosses – accused of covering-up the origin of the disease in an alleged lab leak – are said to have used the crisis to ratchet tighter control over its people while waging economic war on Western rivals.
Experts point out how China’s economy is booming once again almost two years after the virus was first detected in Wuhan.
Meanwhile the US suffered its worst ever recession with tens of millions unemployed, and major rival India is in chaos.
China also ramped up a trade war with Australia – along with threats to strike it with nuclear missiles – in revenge for demanding an inquiry.
It comes as a book reveals bombshell evidence Covid leaked from the Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV) – a high security facility specialising in coronaviruses.
Dozens of leading scientists have suggested Covid could have escaped from the lab through an infected researcher, improper disposal of waste, or potential breaches in the security at the site.
But it was hidden in the “cover up of the century” which one senior figure called “worse than Watergate”, it is claimed.
Sharri Markson’s book What Really Happened In Wuhan has uncovered a string of clues pointing to Beijing’s “comprehensive well thought-out” effort to hide the truth.
Despite this, former intelligence bosses say the evidence of a lab “accident” is clear to see – and there has been a calculated cover-up “from day one”.
There was an “intense” period of “unusual and explained activity” in Wuhan in the weeks leading up to the pandemic – raising suspicions of a virus outbreak followed by a mass sterilisation at the lab.
The city’s airport was locked down for days, there was a mobile phone blackout at the WIV, and security was massively ramped up at the site.
But China has refused to cooperate with a full-scale probe into the origins and experts say the the cover-up is continuing today.
Diplomats also say Beijing has cashed in on the crisis it helped to create.
They say the havoc wreaked as the virus spread round the world is to China’s strategic advantage – whether intentional or not.
Former MI6 chief Sir Richard Dearlove told Markson: “The whole thing has massively played into Chinese hands and it’s very disturbing, particularly in a country like Australia, where you’re on the Pacific rim and the other main occupant on the Pacific rim is China.
“If you look at the consequences of what’s happened, if they wanted to accelerate their success internationally and their domination of their main opponent countries, they couldn’t have done it more effectively.
“Look at what’s happening in India.
“Look at what is has done to the US economy, and it’s clear that authoritarian states are better equipped to control their population in the face of a pandemic because they can immediately institute controls which the population don’t question.”
US ECONOMIC PLUNGE
America’s first lockdown in spring 2020 sent the world’s biggest economy into freefall as non-essential businesses had to close.
The June quarter’s GDP declined by an annual equivalent of 33 per cent, although the actual figure was less.
Overall from fourth quarter 2019 to second quarter 2020 the economy shrank by 19.1 per cent.
A record 22million Americans lost their jobs, the government spent almost $6trillion on pandemic relief.
The Federal Reserve slashed interest rates to near zero and used monthly bond purchases in a desparet effort to keep money flowing.
GDP rebounded sharply by 18 per cent later in the year, but the overall 2020 decline was 3.4 per cent – the worst since 1946.
Further shutdowns last winter caused even more hardship.
And that is not counting the human cost: so far 684,000 Americans have died of Covid, and millions more suffered serious illness.
INDIA IN CHAOS
Unlike in China, India’s shambolic public services could do little to stop the virus ripping through the dense population.
Hospitals were inevitably overwhelmed by millions of patients, and funeral pyres burned day and night to cope with the mounting deaths.
Officially, around 447,000 have died, but poor record keeping means the true toll is likely to be many times higher.
It has been a huge blow to India’s hopes of replacing China as the “world’s factory”.
Its burgeoning economy – seen as a future rival to China, with a massive working population – shrank by 24 per cent at the end of the last fiscal year.
And rampant disease has meant the Delhi government has not been able to focus on forging trade links and investment, allowing Beijing to tighten its grip on Africa and South America with a supply of vaccines.
At the height of the outbreak, Chinese hackers reportedly targeted Mumbai’s electricity grid, plunging hospitals into darkness.
Analysts say it was a warning not to “overstep the mark” following deadly border skirmishes in the Himalayas.
Earlier this year, a social media account linked to the Communist Party mocked the tragedy in India with a post comparing a Chinese rocket to burning corpses.
In May 2020, Australia was the first major nation to officially call for an inquiry into the origin of the Covid outbreak.
Furious Chinese president Xi Jinping responded with devastating trade bans and tariffs on Australian exports such as beef and coal.
The levy on barley – a key export – was set at an eye-watering 80.5 per cent, while the duty on Australian wine was over 200 per cent.
Beijing also flexed its military muscle as it tries to assert dominance over the whole of Asia and the Pacific.
Threats to attack Taiwan spilled over to Australia, with menacing warnings of possible missile strikes.
The row exploded again this month after a submarine deal with the UK and US – as China threatened to nuke Australia and warned of a new arms race.
China imposed the world’s strictest lockdown in early 2020, with millions banned from leaving their homes.
As a result the economy shrank by 6.8 per cent in the first quarter – a much gentler fall than elsewhere.
It bounced back fast, as officials declared the outbreak under control and reopened factories, shops and nightclubs.
In 2020 China was the only major economy to record economic growth, with GDP up by 2.3 per cent.
March this year saw record growth with industrial output up 14 per cent in compared with a year before and retail sales up by 34 per cent.
Beijing has set a growth target of 6 per cent this year as the rest of the world continues to reel from the effects of the pandemic.
The harsh lockdowns imposed in January 2020 showed the almost total control authorities wield over citizens’ lives.
Residents in Wuhan, a city of 11million, were kept inside their apartments by armed guards, and had to buy food deliveries from neighbourhood committees run the by Chinese Communist Party.
Analysts say Beijing has used the disease to beef up its already terrifying Big Brother surveillance state.
An army of at least a million work round the clock to censor social media and report any signs of dissent.
Facial recognition cameras on every corner monitor people’s emotions and use AI tech to calculate their “social credit” score.
And neighbours are encouraged to rat on each other using smartphone apps.
Dahlia Peterson, of Georgetown University, told The Sun Online: “In programs such as Sharp Eyes, local governments nationwide have successfully convinced citizens to take part in surveilling each other.
“The most frightening part is that many people inside China remain unaware of the true scope of surveillance, and still welcome it as a source of ‘security’.”
An aggressive PR battle to squash negative reports has formed another part of China’s strategy – even going so far as to deny the virus started there.
It had huge early success – with leading scientists writing to the Lancet to dismiss lab leak claims as “conspiracy”.
Facebook also banned any posts claiming the virus was man-made – much to Beijing’s delight – while an army of Chinese keyboard warriors spread a myth claiming it originated in a US Army lab.
And this year a WHO probe backing Beijing’s official narrative was branded a “whitewash” as it emerged several of the scientists had links to China.
Matt Turpin, former head of the National Security Council China desk, told Markson: “You had a massive campaign from the PRC to do everything they could to discredit the whole narrative that it may have come from a lab.
“This is what they’ve spent decades since Tiananmen preparing for – a bad news story that threatens the regime, and making sure that you’ve got the influence and the media and propaganda apparatus to be able to control the narrative and the story.”
Ex-MI6 chief Dearlove said: “You can bet your bottom dollar that the Ministry of State Security has been in control of the narrative from day one and the whole thing has been a global disinformation operation.
“I’m absolutely sure that the Chinese narrative was completely dominant and the complicity with the Chinese is bloody outrageous.”
Evidence of a lab leak has been piling up over the last year as scientists, researchers and governments hunt for answers.
Former US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told Markson: “You launch a full-scale cover up only when there is something you very much want to make sure doesn’t become the factual narrative.
“I must say this was a comprehensive, well thought-out, Beijing-centred, constant ongoing effort to obfuscate any capacity for the WHO, any Western country or any scientist to determine patient zero and the origination of this virus.
“And it’s ongoing, This is one of the things that people don’t realise, the cover-up continues.”
America’s former top diplomat in East Asia, David Stilwell, said: “This is the cover-up of the century. This makes Watergate look easy.”
“People are for some reason bent on insisting on having a slam-dunk, air-tight case that China produced this virus,” he added.
“Of course the PRC is not going to let you in there to see their labs, but so many people have used that problem to stop further inquiry.
“This isn’t a legal case, we are not looking for indisputable evidence; there is enough circumstantial evidence.”
Some of the key evidence of inexplicable activity which Markson presents in her book is the ongoing question about wiped virus databases at WIV – which some have speculated may continue key data about the origin of Covid.
The databases containing 22,000 viruses were taken offline in September 12, 2019, three months before China officially warned the world about the virus.
And on the very same day WIV appeared to kick off a spending spree as they ramped up security at the lab, replaced their air ventilation systems and purchased a new medical waste incinerator.
This is the cover-up of the century. This makes Watergate look easy
Two months later in November, the lab also purchased a new PCR testing machine – a bit of kit that has become so familiar to the world since the pandemic.
Meanwhile, there appears to been a mass sterilisation cleaning of the lab and a lockdown in October 2019.
Roadblocks are reported to have been erected around the lab and there was a blackout of mobile phone data around the facility, with one intelligence source telling Markson some considered this a “smoking gun”.
And a former Donald Trump administration official described this activity as “consistent with the protocol for a biological incident occurring at a laboratory”.
During this same period airline flights leaving Wuhan were stopped – with an unusually high number of cancellations.
And meanwhile an anti-coronavirus military exercise was also carried out at Wuhan airport and in the city’s hospitals just months before the pandemic.
For investigative journalist Markson, this evidence combined with the wealth of other interviews and research has led to the conclusion that the virus most likely came from the lab.
And some scientists have also argued the virus itself is covered in the “fingerprints” of genetic manipulation.
And former MI6 chief Sir Richard Dearlove said the “weight of evidence” suggests Covid leaked from a lab during gain-of-function research at the WIV – but it was deliberately covered up right from the start of the outbreak in 2019.
“If you look at the evidence coldly, the likelihood is this is an escape from a laboratory, and it’s up to the Chinese to demonstrate conclusively to us that it isn’t, not just to tell us,” he told Markson.
He added: “I’m not saying they deliberately released it, I’m saying this is a Chinese accident but there was a cover-up from day one.”
Although Covid appears to have been ready made to infect humans, Markson highlighted how political leaders, health authorities and global regulatory bodies looked the other way.
She slammed the lack of investigation into the origins of Covid as “unforgiveable failures on so many levels”.
China has repeatedly stated it is not responsible for the global pandemic and dismissed accusations from those who say the virus was manipulated by humans.
What Really Happened In Wuhan by Sharri Markson is published by HarperCollins and out now, £20 (Hardback)
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