Chinese propagandists are casting blame for the coronavirus pandemic on a U.S. military research lab that shuttered its biowarfare division more than 50 years ago.
Chinese diplomats and state-run media outlets have repeatedly spread the conspiracy that the coronavirus originated in Maryland’s Fort Detrick research lab, often in response to criticism about the country’s response to the pandemic.
“Speaking of the truth, we would like the U.S. government to tell the truth about the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases at Fort Detrick, Maryland, to U.S. and the international community,” Wang Wenbin, Chinese foreign ministry spokesman, said on July 22.
But President Richard Nixon closed down Fort Detrick’s offensive biowarfare division in 1969—50 years before the first coronavirus cases were reported in Wuhan, China. Fort Detrick now focuses on defensive biological research as well as cancer research. U.S. officials have frequently criticized the Chinese government for using the Fort Detrick conspiracy theory—and other unproven allegations—to blame the outbreak on the United States.