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The Australian’s exclusive about a “chilling” document produced by Chinese military scientists is based on a discredited 2015 book containing conspiracy theories about biological warfare which is freely available on the internet.
Written by the paper’s investigations writer, Sharri Markson, the report last Saturday said Chinese military scientists “discussed the weaponisation of Sars coronaviruses five years before the Covid-19 pandemic” and predicted a third world war would be fought with biological weapons.
The story was published to promote Markson’s debut book, What Really happened in Wuhan, which argues that there is “no scientific consensus that Covid-19 has a natural origin” and that China has conspired to cover up the truth.
“The document also talks about the psychological terror that bioweapons can cause, it’s chilling,” Markson said on Sky News, where she hosts her own show, Sharri.
Markson talked up her book on Steve Bannon’s War Room podcast this week, telling the former adviser to Donald Trump she has some “incredible new documents” to reveal when the Harper Collins commission is published in September.
But Markson’s story has been criticised as misleading and alarmist by China analysts.
A deputy editor of Foreign Policy magazine and China expert, James Palmer, said the article has links to conspiracy theories about the origins of the coronavirus which are popular on the right.
“The story is clearly framed in a way to make the reader think that this is secret or confidential information, using language such as that the State Department ‘obtained’ the information,” Palmer told Guardian Australia.
“But this ‘paper’, or ‘document’ as it’s described, is actually a book with a strong conspiratorial bent published in 2015 – a fact buried toward the end of the article – and easily available to any buyer in China.
“Discovering this is exactly as hard as Googling its title in Chinese. Chinese military academics are very given to bluster and conspiracy, especially when trying to sell books; similar texts come out in Chinese about any matter of subjects.
The former ABC reporter turned China researcher Vicky Xu criticised the article on Twitter, saying “embellishment, exaggeration, drawing conclusions from thin evidence on a matter of life and death of so many, will have long-lasting negative impacts and undermine genuine, rigorous investigations by others to come”.
Markson reported that the “paper” described Sars coronaviruses as heralding a “new era of genetic weapons” and said they could be “artificially manipulated into an emerging human disease virus, then weaponised and unleashed in a way never seen before”.
Palmer said the discussion in the book about the effects of biological weapons was in terms of fears these weapons would be used against China, not by China.
“That’s a long-term worry in China, going back to the accusations – almost certainly false, but widely believed in China – that the US deployed biological weapons against China during the Korean War,” Palmer said.
Palmer said Chinese military academics were given to “bluster and conspiracy” when trying to sell books.
“While their paranoias and nationalistic fantasies are worrying signs of how China sees the rest of the world, they tell us very little about what the Chinese military is actually doing itself.”
Markson’s earlier work on Covid-19 has also been criticised, including a 2020 report in the Daily Telegraph on a 15-page “bombshell dossier” that laid “the foundation for the case of negligence being mounted against China”.
But the so-called dossier was described by Nine newspapers as just a research report, based on publicly available information, including news reports.
Markson dismisses criticism of her work about the origins of the virus as the mainstream media being “incurious”, telling Bannon she was “slammed by the leftwing media in Australia”.
Markson told the Australian newspaper, in an interview about her book, that her reporting on Covid-19 had made her the target of “shallow criticism” from the leftwing press.
“The leftwing media, the ABC, the SMH, the Guardian, ridiculed me for investigating this a year ago, claiming it was a conspiracy theory,” Markson said.
The former foreign minister Bob Carr said Markson’s story was an example of “China panic” washing through the Australian media.
Carr told Guardian Australia the story was a case study in the type of reporting that had contributed to the “collapse” in the relationship between the two countries.
Carr, who was foreign minister from 2012 to 2013 in the Gillard and Rudd Labor governments, has been highly critical of the Coalition’s handling of the relationship with China.
“This is a case study in a species of journalism we can baptise as ‘China panic’,” Carr said. “Such material has washed through the Australian media since 2017 …
“It’s fed a view that Australia is threatened and war is imminent.”
Markson told Guardian Australia she “wouldn’t lose a minute sleep over anything Bob Carr says”.
She said the state-run Global Times had falsely accused her report of describing the document as a “leaked” paper.
“In fact our story states that it was published in 2015 by the Chinese Military Medical Science Press, a Chinese government-owned publishing house managed by the General Logistics Department of the PLA. We also said it had circulated among Chinese dissident communities online,” she said.
“One author of the paper was the deputy director of China’s Bureau of Epidemic Prevention. Another, Professor Xu Dezhong, is a prominent military scientist who held a leadership role during the Sars pandemic, reporting to the Ministry for Health and receiving a Gold Medal award from the Military Academy Education.”
Source: The Guardian
Keyword: Sharri Markson exclusive on Chinese ‘bioweapons’ based on discredited 2015 book of conspiracy theories | China