To a growing chorus of U.S. politicians and scientists, she is the key to whether the world will ever learn if the virus behind the devastating COVID-19 pandemic escaped from a Chinese lab. To the Chinese government and public, she is a hero of the country’s success in curbing the epidemic and a victim of malicious conspiracy theories.
Shi Zhengli, a top Chinese virologist, is once again at the center of clashing narratives about her research on coronaviruses at a state lab in Wuhan, the city where the pandemic first emerged.
The idea that the virus may have escaped from a lab had long been widely dismissed by scientists as implausible and shunned by others for its connection with former President Donald Trump. But fresh scrutiny from the Biden administration and calls for greater candor from prominent scientists have brought the theory back to the fore.