Book Reviews
What Really Happened in Wuhan
Sharri Markson

HarperCollins: 2021, 448pp

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“The Chinese Communist Party’s culpability in deliberately covering up the virus instead of alerting the world is a crime as shameful and abhorrent as the Tiananmen Square massacre. Millions of lives have been lost…while economies have been decimated…and people thrown into poverty. The question is, why did they act like this and what were they covering up?” (92) 

In Context

On 6 January 2020 major international newspapers first mentioned a strange new virus spreading in the Wuhan region of China. At the time the Wuhan virus could not compete with more sensational stories like the furious debates leading up to the impeachment of President Trump. China refused all international offers to help manage the outbreak, and refused to cooperate in answering questions relating to the outbreak. All China did was to repeat the mantra: the virus broke out in the Wuhan wet markets. This account of Covid 19’s origins spread as fast as the virus itself, and soon became a settled dogma. Anyone, no matter how well informed or qualified, who questioned it, was derided as a conspiracy theorist by scientists and most of the mainstream media. And yet from the beginning there were very good reasons to doubt the CCP’s official explanation, not the least of which being that the Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV), “the world’s premier coronavirus laboratory”, was located just minutes drive from the wet markets.

Big Ideas

  • The WIV is the best explanation not only for the virus’ outbreak but also for the extreme reluctance of the CCP to shed any light on the virus’ origins
  • Much of the mainstream media, most scientists, and major scientific journals became captured with groupthink pushed by Western scientists compromised with links to Chinese funding and the Wuhan lab
  • Anthony Fauci and the NIH knew of and funded gain-of-function research in the WIV; research which could be used for bio-warfare against the West
  • Upon close study Covid 19 appears to be exquisitely engineered to be lethal to human beings


Even when China learned of the outbreak, it took eight weeks for the authorities to finally alert WHO, and in the meantime China allowed millions of people to travel around domestically and internationally, particularly during Chinese New Year. For many, like US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, China’s refusal to take help immediately raised alarm bells regarding the virus’ origins. It sounded more like a cover-up. Indeed, it was a cover-up, which not only involved blocking all serious scrutiny of the official explanation of the purely zoonotic origins of the disease, but also the imprisonment and disappearance of many Chinese who either knew too much (scientists and doctors) or were too inquisitive (citizen journalists). China on December 31 also began “systematically removing any mention of the virus online.” (85)

Not only this, but WHO became simply the mouthpiece for China, unquestioningly affirming the official wet market account and deriding anyone who suggested a lab-leak as a conspiracy theorist. For example, when from February 10-24 twenty-five health officials were allowed into China to investigate the outbreak, WHO struck the question of its origins off the agenda, and China only allowed three WHO scientists into Wuhan, not even letting them visit the wet markets or the Wuhan Institute of Virology. (83) According to Markson, “The WHO’s role in spreading China’s disinformation and the cover up was crucial” to how Covid played out. (90)

Politically there was incentive in America to play the virus down. Certainly everyone wanted to avoid a panic, and the Trump administration in particular wanted to avoid a market downturn. At the beginning Anthony Fauci dismissed the virus as not serious. It was Peter Navarro who took it most seriously at first, urging Trump to shut the borders to China, which Trump did do on February 2, against Fauci’s advice, and in spite of Democrat accusations of racism – Biden accusing Trump of “fearmongering” and “xenophobia”. (78) Trump also then declared a public health emergency. WHO, which was firmly backing China, also advised against travel bans and declared “China was on top of the unfolding health crisis.” (79) Meanwhile, China was callously taking advantage of downplaying the virus by both buying up medical supplies from around the world and stopping the export of medical supplies out of China. In late April when Australia’s Prime Minister Scott Morrison took the global initiative to demand a proper investigation into the origins of the virus, China’s response was simply to attempt to cripple sectors of the Australian economy.

 Why the Wuhan Institute of Virology?

Lab leaks are quite common around the world. In China in the 1980s there were two epidemics that arose through lab leaks. There was also a China lab leak in 2017, which affected 27 students conducting experiments, and then again in 2019. (235) In fact, China’s labs have a reputation worldwide for lax safety standards, and yet, as we will see, this did not stop Anthony Fauci using US funds to support risky coronavirus research in leaky Chinese labs.

Furthermore, China faced international condemnation for covering up the SARS virus in late 2002 and 2003. In addition, in 2018 a cable had been sent to the US embassy in Beijing outlining how the WIV was undergoing US-funded research into coronaviruses and specifically on bat to human transition. (131) Unfortunately this cable was only more recently discovered, slipping unnoticed among the thousands of others coming in at the time. The same cables mentioned serious lapses in health and safety procedures at the Wuhan lab.

The fact that “the world’s premier coronavirus laboratory was in the same city as the outbreak of a novel coronavirus” (53) should have impressed itself on any serious inquirer into the origins of the pandemic, particularly given China’s history of cover-ups. Furthermore, how likely is it that the bats in question, which are based in caves 2000km from Wuhan, would travel such a distance to start an outbreak coincidentally where a lab researching and engineering the same bat corona viruses was located? Also, and this is crucial, the closest-known corona virus to Covid 19, with a similarity of 96.2%, was located in the Wuhan lab. That is, until it disappeared under suspicious circumstances. Was it the subject of gain-of-function research leading to Covid 19? Markson shows that explanations for its disappearance are completely unconvincing and smack of a cover-up.

Gain-of-function research

Gain-of-function research “aims to make viruses more infectious and deadlier or more virulent.” (192) It should be obvious to anyone that such research has vast biowarfare potential, and China had stated so in numerous documents, including public UN submissions and its own textbooks for use in labs. In other words, China openly admitted that it was pursuing research conducive to biowarfare, much of it funded by countries like the US and Australia (through its CSRIO).

Only two laboratories in the world were conducting such research, and one of them was in Wuhan. President Obama paused funding for such research in 2014. Fauci had historically defended gain-of-function and even quietly lifted the ban on this research in the US in 2017. (217) According to one prominent scientist, “No person on the planet has done more than Anthony Fauci to enable, expand and excuse gain-of-function research.” (220) Fauci, as head of the NIH funded the same research on coronaviruses in the Wuhan lab. Is it any wonder that he was one of the earliest and staunchest critics of the lab-leak hypothesis? Indeed, in the earliest days of the pandemic, witnesses at the strategy meetings involving Fauci testified that at no point did Fauci even mention that there was a lab in Wuhan that was conducting research on coronaviruses, let alone that he had funded them.

Interestingly, virologists advising governments in the early days of the pandemic were divided 50/50 on whether Covid 19 had been genetically manipulated. But when powerful scientists began the programme of simply declaring the lab-leak hypothesis a conspiracy, the scientific community mostly fell into line, but not completely. Covid 19 is much more infectious than other viruses because its spike protein latches onto the human cells 10-20 times more tightly than the SARS spike protein did. One scientist described the virus as “exquisitely matched” to humans. (171) Was it the subject of gain-of-function interference? Markson provides expert virological testimony that suggests most definitely yes, not to mention powerful evidence that the WIV covered up its own research.

Western Denialism

Despite the overwhelming evidence – virological, historical, documentary, testimonial, and circumstantial – for the probability of the lab-leak explanation, so many scientists and the media ruled it out tout court without actually coming to grips with it. It was simply declared a conspiracy. Why? According to Markson, the two main driving forces behind the inability for the lab-leak hypothesis to get a fair hearing in the West were China-compromised scientists and anti-Trumpism in the media and the scientific community.

Early in the pandemic, in February, the esteemed medical journal The Lancet published a letter signed by 27 leading scientists stating unequivocally that the virus came directly from an animal and also condemned as a conspiracy theory, without any real argument, any suggestion of a lab leak. Markson shows that the leader of the 27 scientists, Peter Daszak, President of the Eco Health Alliance, was on a crusade to label anyone suggesting a lab leak as a conspiracy theorist. And yet of the 27 scientists, seven were affiliated with EcoHealth Alliance, which under Dazsak’s presidency, had been funneling money to the Wuhan lab and been working with it since 2010. In an amazing conflict of interest, Daszak was also appointed to the WHO investigation of the virus. Of course the investigation didn’t even bother looking into the Wuhan lab. In fact four of the WHO’s investigators had prior working relationships with the Wuhan lab. Dazsak was also appointed lead scientist on The Lancet’s team of scientists looking into the virus’ origins, which, of course, refused to countenance the possibility of a lab leak. (271-275)

On April 30 Trump was asked by the media about the credibility of a lab leak explanation, the President said he had seen compelling evidence for this. (125) Almost immediately the theory became verboten because it could be associated with Trump. It’s an incredible indictment on the media and the scientific establishment, not to mention many security and intelligence bureaus, that the lab-leak hypothesis was not only ruled out tout court immediately once China gave it’s official explanation, but that those who advocated it were derided as cranks and conspiracy theorists. Part of the problem here is that many experts were themselves compromised by Chinese funding of their own research, not to mention having their own ties to the Wuhan lab in question.

It seems bizarre that the mainstream media was so hostile to scrutinizing China, considering that “China is the biggest prison in the world for journalists.” (65) Australia’s public broadcaster the ABC comes in for special rebuke, as it seems to have systematically engaged in an entirely one-sided account of all things Covid, ranging from the origins of the virus to the vaccine rollout, all of which was contentious and open to debate. There was no debate with the ABC. (176)

The few scientists who tried to publish papers that questioned the official account of the virus, by noting evidences of human intervention into the spike protein, found their papers rejected as “too hot.” (160) Australian scientist and virologist Professor Nicolai Petrovsky emerges as another hero in Markson’s account. Scientific journals simply blocked papers questioning the Chinese narrative. Part of the problem was that many institutions and much scientific funding is tied to China and Chinese money. In other words, the universities, individual research teams, and, consequently, the journals themselves were compromised by Chinese funds. (179) Some letters signed collectively by high-ranking scientists were published, demanding a proper investigation into the virus’ origins, but these were not heeded by the wider scientific community. (187)


Markson’s book demonstrates the extremely high likelihood that Covid 19 was the result of a lab leak at the WIV. Markson also shows chilling evidence that the virus may have leaked as early as October 2019. Certainly there are absolute indications that some kind of disaster occurred at the Wuhan lab during this period, including records of Covid-like symptoms among staff and a cover-up. This was also when the Military World Games were being held in Wuhan from October 8th to the 27th, in which 10,000 athletes from 110 countries attended and then flew home. During the games many of the athletes came down with a severe flu. Strangely, just the previous month in September, “the Chinese government held a large-scale ‘anti-coronavirus exercise’ in the airport and hospitals in Wuhan.”

In her account Markson does not directly suggest that the lab leak was deliberate, rather she presents the evidence and leaves the conclusion up to the reader to decide. And this review can hardly do justice to the overwhelming weight of evidence that Markson brings to prove her thesis: the virus was the product of a lab leak in an institution in Wuhan which had been pursuing gain-of-function research for years consistent with a bioweapons programme. Even more strangely, the West was not only a victim of this leak and its cover-up, but itself actively sought to discredit anyone who tried to expose it. Markson has exposed all of this beyond doubt.


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