Made in China
Wuhan, Covid and the Quest for Biotech Supremacy
What might COVID-19 mean for, and reveal about, China’s place in the world?
The coronavirus pandemic started in Wuhan, home to the leading lab studying the SARS virus and bats. Was that pure coincidence? This book explores what we know, and still don’t know, about the origins of COVID-19, and how it was handled in China.
We may never get all the answers, but much is already clear: China’s record as the origin of earlier pandemics, and its struggle to bring contagious diseases under control; its history as both a victim of biological warfare and a developer of deadly bioweapons. When Covid broke out, Wuhan was building science parks to realise Beijing’s ambitions in biotech research. Whoever achieves global leadership of the gene-editing industry stands to harvest great power and wealth.
China has already challenged Western technological supremacy with 5G and in other industries. Yet this tiny, invisible virus has cruelly exposed a critical flaw in the Chinese political system: obsessive secrecy. The West wanted to trust the PRC, hoping that, as it prospered, it would become an open society. Made in China reveals how Beijing’s leaders have betrayed that trust.
‘Jasper Becker writes on China with integrity and lucidity.’ — Jung Chang, author of Wild Swans: Three Daughters of China
‘Mr. Becker […] provides useful context about the complicated history of U.S.-China relations. [Made in China] brings to the surface what is often a subtext in these debates about virus research: the spectre of biological warfare.’ — The Wall Street Journal
‘Jasper Becker draws on many years of experience in investigative journalism in China to probe a pressing mystery. Can it really be a mere coincidence that Covid-19 appeared in close proximity to the only known laboratory in the world that was specialised in experimenting with the SARS virus, a close relative of Covid? Becker’s examination of the evidence from Wuhan suggests that such a coincidence is most unlikely.’ — James Kynge, Global China Editor, Financial Times
‘In seeking answers to where the Covid-19 virus might have come from and why it appeared in Wuhan, Jasper Becker first delves into the history of plague in China. He then traces disease transmission, the political and economic drivers of state-sponsored scientific research and the transnational investigation of zoonotic diseases that may have created the conditions for the Wuhan outbreak. Becker’s masterly knowledge of Chinese history and Chinese language sources offer unique insights that allow readers to reach their own conclusions as to the cause of the pandemic, a watershed in world affairs. His analysis of government responses confirms the Chinese Communist Party’s preoccupation with controlling the public narrative, dispelling the widespread and oversimplified image of authoritarian efficacy in pandemic management. Becker also performs a major service in discussing the future global public health risks that may emanate from the PRC.’ — Kun-Chin Lin, Deputy Director of the Centre for Geopolitics and Tun Suffian College Lecturer at Gonville & Caius College, University of Cambridge
Jasper Becker lived in and reported from Beijing for eighteen years, including as bureau chief for the South China Morning Post. A Mandarin-speaker, he has written on China for The Guardian, The Economist and The Spectator. He is the author of ten books including the acclaimed Hungry Ghosts: Mao’s Secret Famine.