Did 'the Wuhan lab' spend $606 mln on air conditioning/ventilation?
WashPo and WSJ opinion pages didn't catch it.
This newsletter is again related to COVID-19 origins tracing and will be brief.
Recently, one sentence in a recent opinion on the Wall Street Journal referring to the Wuhan Institute of Virology by former CDC Director Dr. Robert Redfield and Fox News contributor Dr. Marc Siegel on Sunday, Aug. 15 caught the eye of your Pekingnologist:
It put out requests for more than $600 million for a new ventilation system. What prompted this new need?
On August 2, the Washington Post opinion columnist Josh Rogin wrote, paraphrasing the 84-page addendum on August 1 from the House Foreign Affairs Committee minority staff, led by ranking Republican Rep. Michael McCaul (Tex.)
The committee staff also unearthed an archived version of a contract competition for a new $1.3 million “Security Service Procurement Project” that was issued by the Wuhan Institute of Virology on Sept. 12, the same day the virus database went mysteriously offline. Four days later, the Wuhan Institute of Virology announced a new contract competition to completely renovate its air conditioning system for an estimated $606 million. Both contract announcements were later scrubbed from the Chinese Ministry of Finance website.
Knowing China as he does, your Pekingnologist instantly develops some suspicion: how could a new air conditioning system/ventilation system cost $606 million, aka 3.93 billion yuan, here?
Both statements above come from Page 20 of the 84-page addendum, entitled The Origins of COVID-19: An Investigation of the Wuhan Institute of Virology
Where does this information come from? Footnote 41 and 42, both on Page 20
So, on the alleged $1.3-million security service procurement document, let’s check out footnote 41, visiting the link https://archive.is/tUi75#selection-229.0-229.156
It’s indeed the archived page of the security service procurement document. Scrolling down the page and you can see
The Mandarin words in the orange box say
预算金额：83.0 万元 （人民币）
Budget number: 83.0 ten thousand yuan (renminbi), which equals 830,000 yuan, or 0.83 million yuan
But Page 20 of the 84-page addendum says the amount is $1.3 million, which equals about 8.3 million yuan.
In 0.83 million vs. 8.3 million, there is a big difference - the number in the House Republican report, as quoted on the Washington Post opinion column, is 10 - ten - times exaggerated.
What about the alleged $606-million central air conditioning renovation procurement document? let’s check out footnote 42, visiting the link https://archive.is/bfoTD#selection-229.0-229.131
Scrolling down the page and you can see
The Mandarin words in the orange box say
Budget number: 392.687694 ten thousand yuan (renminbi), which is 3.9268764 million yuan, or about 3.93 million yuan
But Page 20 of the 84-page addendum says the amount is over $606 million, which equals about 3.93 billion yuan.
In 3.93 million vs. 3.93 billion, there is a staggering difference - the number in the House Republican report, as quoted on the opinion pages of the Washington Post and the Wall Street Journal, is 1,000 - one thousand - times exaggerated.
In fact, in the chart continuing from Page 19 to 20, five of the seven numbers are far off. In addition to the two errors discussed above:
$401,284.10 is ten times exaggerated because it’s (Mandarin) in fact 26.0 万元，or 260,000 yuan
$1,521,279,28 is ten times exaggerated because it’s (Mandarin) in fact 98.6 万元, or 986,000 yuan
$132,200,025.47 is one hundred times exaggerated because it’s (Mandarin) in fact 856.68 万元, or 8.5668 million yuan
A bigger problem here is apparently former CDC Director Dr. Robert Redfield, Fox News contributor Dr. Marc Siegel, Washington Post opinion columnist Josh Rogin, and the opinion page editors at the Wall Street Journal and the Washington Post failed to catch the errors.
As demonstrated above, the fact check does NOT require any investigative skills or exclusive access. All it takes are some grade-school maths, basic language proficiency, an inquisitive mind, and a sense of responsibility.
Plus, the Washington Post opinion column says
Both contract announcements were later scrubbed from the Chinese Ministry of Finance website.
As of the evening on Thursday, August 19, 2021, in Beijing, both links work, and you can try by yourself
Your Pekingnologist has probably written far too much on COVID-19 origins tracing for subscribers to this newsletter, who may not be interested and some of whom might have already unsubscribed because of stuff like this.
But the fact of the matter is some of the biggest microphones in the world haven’t done their jobs properly and thus enabled erroneous information to spread.
Some information that many people take as solid, proved, and even irrefutable truths may turn out to be simply erroneous and can’t stand scrutiny. This sounds self-congratulatory but if your Pekingnologist hasn’t looked into this, the exaggerated numbers may go down that road - and even if he has done that, there is no telling as well.
Emails detailing the errors were sent to the relevant authors and editors, as well as the Media Contact of Republican Rep. Michael McCaul (Tex.) on Tuesday, Aug. 17.