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The Crisis of the “Source of Covid-19” and Anarchy in the International System

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After the former President of the United States (USA) Donald Trump called Covid-19 as the “Chinese virus”, then, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo stated that China did not provide timely information about Covid-19; He even stated that China would be held responsible, claiming that it produced directly in the laboratory in the city of Wuhan and this situation causes to endanger willingfully.[1] According to the news that the American media has been focusing on recently, the US intelligence prepared a comprehensive report on the origin of Covid-19, and in this report, it was claimed that three researchers at the Wuhan Institute of Virology got sick in November 2019 and that the Beijing administration hided them.[2] According to the information based on the Central Intelligence Agency/Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) intelligence reports, shortly before the epidemic spread in the city, three researchers working at the Wuhan Laboratory fell ill with complaints similar to the symptoms of the virus and seasonal flu and applied to the hospital. So, US President Joe Biden asked the American intelligence services to prepare an additional report on the origin of Covid-19 within 90 days, and specifically requested that the origin of the virus be created in a laboratory in China or not.

The reason why the US focuses so much on the “source of origin of Covid-19” is that it wants to accuse China of “committing crimes against humanity” and, if necessary, judges it. Pompeo said in a statement that “There will come a time when those responsible will be held accountable. I’m pretty sure this will happen; The time will come to blame (China).”[3] This is the most important reason why the USA has put so much pressure on China regarding human rights in the recent period. This is the most significant reason why the USA has put so much pressure on China regarding human rights in the recent period.

In order to judge China in international area, the Washington administration is trying to find new evidence of “possible” human rights violations in its autonomous or Special Administrative Region such as Xinjiang-Uyghur, Tibet, Hong Kong and Taiwan, and announces this violations to the world systematically. By doing this, the Washington administration wants to activate China’s internal dynamics as its primary goal, and if it fails, at least to weaken Beijing’s international reputation.

How the US will hold China accountable or prosecuted internationally is also a question mark. Primarily, the United States may request that prosecutors at the International Criminal Court (ICC) investigate this in order to judge Chinese officials in matters that fall within the definition of crimes against humanity. However, there is no possibility that the United Nations (UN) Security Council, which includes China, will act on the ICC. The International Court of Justice also has the authority to investigate the reality of any event that may constitute a breach of an international obligation. However, the consent of the state’s parties is required to act on the ICJ. Above all, the United States knows very well that such a trial cannot yet be made because it does not have sufficient evidence that China has committed crimes against humanity.

Claims that Covid-19 was produced in a laboratory in Wuhan, China, lead to the questioning of the structure of the international system. Since the emergence of Covid-19, many analysts have stated that the understanding of the modern nation-state in the world has collapsed and national borders have been disappeared in the world with the effect of globalization. If we consider this interpretation from a theoretical perspective, realist ideas and theories are continuing to be relevant in the world. Accordingly, anarchy is dominating the international system. Therefore, there is no supreme authority that can judge China for “crimes against humanity”. First of all, the UN Charter states that states should refrain from using force against the territorial integrity and political independence of other states. On the other hand, Chapter 7 of the UN Charter allows the UN Security Council to take coercive measures against actions of states that may threaten international peace and security in times of war or peace. However, the presence of five states with veto power in the UN Security Council makes the international system as an anarchic.

The United States has difficulties in mobilizing the international community against China today due to the UN system which once was pioneered by USA. The main reason why the Covid-19 epidemic emerged in China, affecting the whole world and posing a deadly threat to human health, is that there is no superior authority that will pressure the states to comply with the general principles of international law, customs and jurisprudence. Realist theories and international order, which are the products of the modern time, are once again being implemented in the post-modern period. The USA, on the other hand, wants to return to the Cold War conditions. In this context, the Washington administration wants to recreate the conditions of the bipolar order with the formation of QUAD against China in the Asia-Pacific, and to create a single pole against China by including NATO in the process. However, in this bipolar system, Russia stands out as a significant balancing actor between the USA and China. While the international system is turning into bipolar; Multipolar actors such as Russia, China and Turkey constitute the biggest obstacles to the US’s global-strategic goals. Therefore, the discussions about the origin of Covid-19 remind us once again that the structure of the international system has been transformed.


[1] “Pompeo, Tekrar Çin’i Hedef Aldı: Kovid-19’da Sorumluların Hesap Vereceği Bir Zaman Gelecek”, Sputnik, https://tr.sputniknews.com/koronavirus-salgini/202004141041820710-pompeo-tekrar-cini-hedef-aldi-kovid-19da-sorumlularin-hesap-verecegi-bir-zaman-gelecek/, (Erişim Tarihi: 31.05.2021).

[2] “Is Biden Helping China Cover up Its COVID Crimes?”, Lifesitenews, https://www.lifesitenews.com/blogs/is-biden-helping-china-cover-up-its-covid-crimes, (Erişim Tarihi: 31.05.2021).

[3] “Pompeo, Tekrar Çin’i…”, a.g.m.

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ANKASAM Asya-Pasifik Uzmanı