U.K. Risks China Spat With Boris Johnson Attack on ‘Demented’ Medicine

U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson set himself on a collision course with the Chinese government with a thinly veiled attack on traditional medicine, which he said was to blame for the coronavirus pandemic.

The practice of using scales from the endangered pangolin to aid virility is “demented,” Johnson said at a meeting of world leaders focused on protecting nature on Monday.

“The coronavirus pandemic was the product of an imbalance in man’s relationship with the natural world,” Johnson said. “It originates from bats or pangolins, from the demented belief that if you grind up the scales of a pangolin you will somehow become more potent or whatever it is people believe.”

A team of scientists from the World Health Organization is scheduled to arrive in China this week to investigate the origins of the virus, which has killed nearly 2 million people since it first emerged in the central Chinese city of Wuhan.

Some theories suggest the pangolin could have played a role in the transmission from animals to humans because related viruses have been found in the endangered mammals, which are trafficked for use in Chinese traditional medicine.

‘Scientific Matter’

“We’ve said many times that origin tracing is a scientific matter,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian told a regular briefing Tuesday in Beijing. “There is no room, no place, for people making speculations, hyping up -- otherwise it will only disrupt international cooperation.”

President Xi Jinping has personally promoted traditional Chinese medicine at home and abroad, calling it the “treasure of ancient Chinese science and the key to the archive of Chinese civilization.” Last year, senior Chinese officials and state media pushed traditional Chinese medicine as an effective treatment for Covid-19 symptoms.

China will host a new round of United Nations talks on biodiversity in Kunming in May this year. Johnson urged Beijing to use the meeting to “give real meaning” to a set of strategic biodiversity targets that were supposed to be implemented by 2020.

©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

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