Top Chinese health officials offered to brief U.S. counterparts on the “new coronavirus in Wuhan” in a closed-door meeting in early 2020, newly obtained emails show.
As health officials in the United States and around the world were scrambling to respond to the emerging COVID-19 outbreak from China, Lance Rodewald, a senior adviser to the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention (China CDC), floated an offer to have an “informal discussion” regarding the new illness.
“I’m writing to explore whether you may be interested in an informal presentation/briefing/discussion about the novel coronavirus by Dr. Feng Zijian at a side meeting around the time of the February ACIP meeting,” he said in an email dated Jan. 23, 2020, sent to eight U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) officials.
ACIP is a panel of health experts that advises the CDC on vaccine recommendations. The panel typically meets at the CDC headquarters in Atlanta, Georgia.
The same day Rodewald made the offer, the Chinese city of Wuhan, where the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus first originated, entered into a full lockdown. The virus had been spreading in the city and around the world undetected as the Chinese regime suppressed crucial information about the outbreak and delayed acknowledging for weeks that the virus could transmit among humans.
The regime was also stonewalling repeated U.S. requests to send experts into China and get on-the-ground data.
Feng was the deputy director for the Chinese CDC at the time. He and Ma Chao, an official with China CDC’s National Immunization Program, were preparing to visit Atlanta for another conference, Rodewald told CDC officials in the email.
“I think that most of you know Dr. Feng Zijian,” he wrote, describing Feng as the architect of China’s National Immunization Advisory Committee. Feng “has visited US CDC many times, including for 6 months during the H1N1 influenza pandemic and in 2016 during an ACIP meeting,” he said.
Feng was leading China’s investigation into and response to the Wuhan virus, Rodewald said. “As such, he knows pretty-much everything about the investigation and response, including the virology, epidemiology, clinical spectrum, and mitigation measures being taken over here.”
Because of Feng’s responsibilities, Rodewald cast doubt on Feng’s ability to make it to the United States, but wanted to gauge whether U.S. officials were interested in meeting him if he did. Ma, he indicated, was more likely to go.
The offer elicited a warm welcome from Anne Schuchat, then the principal deputy director of the CDC.
“If they visit we are delighted to meet on the sidelines of acip,” she wrote back hours later. “Together we can figure out who will be able to meet. Of course I remember Feng Zinjian well.”
Rodewald in reply said it was “great news” to see the “interest and willingness for Feng Zijian to meet at CDC.”
“Many, many thanks,” he wrote in the email closing.
The emails were obtained by The Epoch Times through a Freedom of Information Act request.
It’s unclear whether Chinese officials ended up meeting with CDC officials, though Ma did ultimately travel to the United States.
Minutes from a Global NITAG Network (GNN) meeting that took place on Feb. 24 and Feb. 25 in 2020 show Ma presented during the meeting on off-label vaccinations in China.
Feng’s name didn’t appear.
During the ACIP meeting one day later, Dr. Amanda Cohn, one of the CDC officials on the emails, said that the CDC had hosted the GNN meeting.
“Those meeting attendees will be coming in and out and watching the meeting, both in another space as well as in the room,” Cohn said.
Neither Ma nor Feng appeared during the ACIP meeting, the last to be held in person since the pandemic started.
The CDC, Cohn, and other top CDC officials did not respond to requests for comment.
Queries sent to the Chinese scientists bounced back.
Chinese media did not report on the GNN or the ACIP meetings.
Additional Freedom of Information Act requests have been lodged seeking to confirm whether any Chinese scientists met with U.S. officials before, during, or after the ACIP meeting.
Two ACIP members, Dr. Kevin Ault and Dr. Pablo Sanchez, told The Epoch Times they did not recall speaking with Chinese scientists in Atlanta. A third, Arkansas Health Secretary Jose Romero, said through a spokesperson that he “did not meet with the Chinese scientists.”
Paul Mango, a former Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) official, suggested the Chinese officials might have initiated the offer out of individual goodwill.
“There were some Chinese scientists who wanted to collaborate, yet were perhaps discouraged from doing so by their government,” he told The Epoch Times.
HHS is the CDC’s parent agency.
A number of Chinese doctors were punished by regime authorities in the early days of the pandemic when they tried to warn the public about the virus. A Shanghai lab that published the world’s first COVID-19 virus sequence was shut down the same day.
Chinese media reports show that Rodewald, of China’s CDC, appeared to be an admirer of China’s COVID-19 response.
In a government-sponsored forum in Shanghai in October 2020, he was asked about China’s shortcomings in scientific research in pandemic response efforts.
“You asked the wrong person,” he said while laughing, according to Chinese media reports. “I really respect the measures China has taken in fighting the outbreak. I’m just a witness.” He added that other countries should learn from how China traced and isolated close contacts of the infected.
Eva Fu is a New York-based writer for The Epoch Times focusing on U.S.-China relations, religious freedom, and human rights. Contact Eva at firstname.lastname@example.org