How to counter future China pandemics: Trump analysts propose action steps

FPI / June 9, 2021

As China continues to hide information related to the Covid-19 pandemic, a group of former Trump administration officials are calling on Congress to punish Beijing and to take steps to prevent future pandemics.

In this photo dated Feb. 6, 2021, a worker in protective overalls and carrying disinfecting equipment walks outside the Wuhan Central Hospital where Li Wenliang, the whistleblower doctor who sounded the alarm and was reprimanded by local police for it in the early days of Wuhan’s pandemic, worked. / AP Photo / Ng Han Guan

In a report titled “A Just Response to Beijing‘s COVID-19 Abuses”, the officials urge the Biden administration to halt all funding for dangerous research, such as “gain-of-function,” which work to make viruses more infectious to humans.

The report was produced by former State Department officials Miles Yu, David Feith and Thomas DiNanno, along with David Asher, a weapons expert who took part in a department-led inquiry into the origin of the coronavirus pandemic in the final months of the Trump administration.

The State Department’s latest annual arms compliance report states that China has engaged in activities that raise concerns regarding possible violations of a global ban on offensive biological weapons.

The ex-officials’ proposed course of action includes:

• “To highlight future U.S. vulnerabilities,” the U.S. government should form an independent commission that “could include an all-source analysis of China‘s gain-of-function research activities and programs related to viruses, including classified R&D and military strategy and policy toward synthetic biology and viral [biological weapons] capabilities.”

• Congress passing legislation to punish Beijing for mishandling the Covid-19 outbreak that has caused more than 3 million deaths and ravaged the global economy.

“Whether one believes COVID-19 originated in a zoonotic host, a bat cave, a frozen food shipment, or a Wuhan lab’s dangerous ‘dual-use’ research supporting undeclared bioweapons programs, the world needs answers from the Chinese Communist Party,” the former officials said in the report published by the Hudson Institute.

“There is an opportunity for a bipartisan, bicameral initiative to establish a 21st-century framework for defending the United States and international partners against the prospect of another devastating pandemic,” the report stated. “We cannot afford further impunity by Beijing and passivity from Washington as we enter what may be a century of synthetic biological adventurism and potential biowarfare.”

• Congress should examine U.S. criminal code, including the War Crimes Act, in seeking ways to bolster prohibitions against “gray zone biowarfare.”

• Legislation also should include stronger sanctions, such as amending the Chemical and Biological Weapons Control and Warfare Elimination Act to sanctions people, companies and governments that “have engaged in gross or significant negligence with respect to the maintenance of their biological facilities and/or the deliberate withholding of information in response to a significant event,” the report said.

The first institutes to be sanctioned should be the Chinese military-linked Wuhan Institute of Virology and the Chinese Academy of Sciences, the report’s authors say.

• The administration should address Beijing‘s violations of international treaties, including International Health Regulations that require consultation and sharing of data with treaty members.

“Beijing‘s military programs need to be verified as complying with the ‘peaceful purposes’ clause of the Biological Weapons Convention,” the report states.

• The U.S. secretaries of State and Treasury should impose sanctions on the Wuhan Institute of Virology, which many see as a potential origin point for the pandemic.

• Increasing efforts to prepare for future pandemics and ending all funding to the EcoHealth Alliance, the NGO which received more than $100 million in federal funds but which critics say failed in its mission of predicting the pandemic.

“The administration should adopt a better strategy, such as establishing a public-private partnership to develop and deploy a global network of bio-threat detection sensors,” the report said.

“China would be expected to be a founding plank holder for this international bio-sensing network, as this initiative’s purpose is to share data akin to weather prediction and seismology joint detection, prediction, and coordination,” the report said. “At least we would get the benefit of much earlier warnings of natural or man-made disease outbreaks from this epidemiological ‘Open Skies’ initiative.”

Yu, a former contributing editor to, was the State Department’s policy planning official for China affairs under President Donald Trump. DiNanno headed the arms control compliance bureau that was the most active in seeking to identify the origin of the pandemic. Feith worked as a China specialist in the department’s East Asian and Pacific Affairs bureau. The Biden administration ended the inquiry after taking office in January.

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