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Originally Published: March 15, 2020 at 3:36 p.m. ET | By Tanner Brown

Chinese officials and state media sow doubt — and levy accusations — about COVID-19 disease’s origin

As coronavirus cases dwindle in China and explode across the rest of the world, Beijing is undertaking a campaign to shift blame for the emergence of the disease to a familiar foe — the United States.

The seemingly coordinated effort to, at minimum, sow doubts about the virus’s origin, and, at its most extreme, to directly accuse the U.S. military of creating and spreading the pathogen, has come from Chinese medical leaders, ambassadors and Foreign Ministry spokespersons — not to mention the hundreds of thousands of comments on Chinese social media echoing the conspiracy theories.

The undertaking is part of a broader campaign to deflect blame for the pandemic and China’s delay in taking action early in the emergence of the disease, which global experts say began in Wuhan, Hubei Province, potentially as early as November, and has infected more than 160,000 worldwide and killed nearly 6,000.

The first signs of Chinese skepticism of the virus’s origin came from the face of its fight against the epidemic, the celebrated doctor Zhong Nanshan, who was instrumental in the 2003 handling of the SARS crisis and has been featured in numerous televised interviews during the COVID-19 outbreak. At a press conference on Feb. 27, Zhong stated that the virus “may not have originated in China.”