Report: Chinese paper discussed weaponization of SARS coronaviruses in 2015

Okay, let’s start with some caveats because this is one of those stories that seems almost too good, or really too bad, to be true. This story comes from reporter Shari Markson who writes for the Australian. Markson has a forthcoming book titled “What Really Happened in Wuhan” which is set to be published by Harper Collins in September. But last Friday she published an exclusive story based on information in the book.

Markson claims the US State Department uncovered a 2015 document in which Chinese military scientists discuss how weaponized viruses could be used in a future war to cripple the enemy’s health care system. The document specifically mentioned SARS coronaviruses.

I don’t have an Australian subscription so I haven’t read the story but over the weekend the Daily Mail wrote about the story:

Chinese scientists have been preparing for a Third World War fought with biological and genetic weapons including coronavirus for the last six years, according to a document obtained by US investigators…

The dossier by People’s Liberation Army scientists and health officials, details of which were reported in The Australian, examined the manipulation of diseases to make weapons ‘in a way never seen before’…

The document, New Species of Man-Made Viruses as Genetic Bioweapons, says: ‘Following developments in other scientific fields, there have been major advances in the delivery of biological agents.

Yesterday, Markson appeared on Sky News to describe the elements of her story. Another caveat here is one Markson made in the clip below. While this may add some credibility to the possibility of a lab leak, there’s still “no suggestion it was an intentional release.”

The real value of this report, Markson said, is that it gives us a window into how some PLA scientists were thinking about bioweapons just a few years ago. There are a total of 18 authors to this report but the lead author is not a fringe figure.

“The editor and chief of the paper, Xu Deshong, was the leader of the SARS epidemic analysis expert group under the Chinese Ministry of Health,” Markson said. She continued, “He reported to the top leadership of the Chinese military commission and the health ministry during the 2003 SARS crisis. He briefed them 24 times. He also prepared three reports for the general office of the communist party’s central committee and the general office of the state council. He gave two big interviews on Chinese state TV and appeared in six news articles.” In short, this is not some nut no one has ever heard of in China. He’s a well-established and respected scientist in this field, one who is training dozens of Chinese Ph.D. students.

The report itself appears to have been advocating a position which Markson rightly calls a conspiracy theory, i.e. that SARS was a biological weapon created by another country and released in China. That’s similar to what China has claimed about COVID-19, i.e. that it arose in Italy or the U.S. or perhaps was sent to China in frozen food. As Markson points out, SARS arose in a wet market and the animal which helped it transfer from bats to humans was later identified.

Maybe that’s the sort of thing that it’s necessary to say in China because no one can admit that China’s wildlife trade, which the government had encouraged, was responsible for the outbreak. Or maybe Xu really believed it. Whatever the case, the document clearly talks about how to use manufactured diseases to do serious damage to the enemy’s health system and to instill fear.

Of course the fact that Chinese scientists were talking about SARS as a weapon and the possibility that future wars would be fought with similar biological weapons doesn’t prove that Chinese gain-of-function research at the Wuhan Institute of Virology was aimed at producing weapons. But it certainly doesn’t detract from the possibility that they were working on this behind the scenes and could even make the idea of an accidental lab leak a bit easier to explain.

Near the end of this clip, Markson mentions that the State Department looked at this report last year.