The weapon of the new crown in Yan Limeng’s hands is out of bullets.
By September, Yan had abandoned caution. She appeared in the United States on Fox News, making the unsubstantiated claim to millions that the coronavirus was a bioweapon manufactured by China.
Overnight, Yan became a right-wing media sensation, with top advisers to President Donald Trump and conservative pundits hailing her as a hero. Nearly as quickly, her interview was labeled on social media as containing “false information,” while scientists rejected her research as a polemic dressed up in jargon.
Her evolution was the product of a collaboration between two separate but increasingly allied groups that peddle misinformation: a small but active corner of the Chinese diaspora and the highly influential far right in the United States.