75 minutes | Apr 1, 2021

China's COVID-19 response and the virus's origins, with Deborah Seligsohn

This week on Sinica, Kaiser chats with Deborah Seligsohn, who served as the State Department’s Environment, Science, Technology and Health Counselor at the U.S. Embassy in Beijing from 2003 to 2007. She is now an assistant professor of political science at Villanova University in Philadelphia, where she currently teaches a course on pandemics and politics. She recalls her firsthand experience with China’s SARS response in 2003, shares her views on how much China improved in the intervening years, and talks about how, when, and why China mishandled its initial response to the novel coronavirus in the winter of 2019–2020. Deborah also offers her critical perspective on the persistent “lab-leak” theory.

This show was recorded on March 12, with an addendum recorded on March 29, in which Deborah addresses some of the news relating to the search for COVID’s origins that came out in the intervening weeks.

6:50: Understanding the origins of COVID-19

34:16: Chinese scientists’ unwillingness to share data 

43:54: The World Health Organization’s handling of the virus

54:36: The lab-leak theory


Deborah: Coronation, by Ai Weiwei, and the podcast In The Bubble: From The Frontlines.

Kaiser: The rise of made-in-China diplomacy, Peter Hessler’s latest piece in The New Yorker.

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