In his latest op-ed for the Wall Street Journal, U.S. National Security Director John Ratcliffe revealed that China has big plans to execute in order to become the world’s most prominent military power. According to the information Ratcliffe accessed, the Chinese Communist Party has carried out tests on members of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army, with the objective of “developing soldiers with improved biological capabilities.”
There are no ethical boundaries for Beijing’s pursuit of power.
In this regard, other officials have confirmed Ratcliffe’s words, warning that Chinese officials could use gene-editing technology for war purposes. According to these reports, biopolitics —founded by the Soviet Union— and eugenics are the instruments used by the CCP to perfect the war capabilities of its soldiers. According to an essay by Elsa Kania and Wilson VornDick titled “China’s Military Biotechnology Frontier: CRISPR, Military-Civic Fusion and the New Revolution in Military Affairs” for the Jamestown Foundation, scientists and military strategists have emphasized that biotechnology could become the new strategic heights that command the future of the technological revolution in military affairs.
What is most worrying in this case is that China is at the forefront of gene-editing technology and is using it for military purposes. Even with the limitations that genetic engineering currently has, the Communist Party of China is currently rethinking the dimensions and capacities of war, of the economic and social sectors.
Kania and VornDick assure that senior officials and academics of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army have shown serious concerns for “national security and biological defense” in response to infectious disease threats, but have also placed much emphasis on the importance of exploring the military’s potential —and even the offensive application of biotech.
The military academies in China are filling up with essays on this subject and with the same goal: to deepen on the militarization of biotechnology. Colonel Guo Jiwei, for example, published a recent book called “The War for Biological Dominance” (zhishengquan). The latter term could be translated, according to Kania and VornDick, as “biological domain” or “biological command/superiority.”
Major General He Fuchu, vice president of the Academy of Military Sciences, has shown full support for the militarization of biotechnology. He states that “modern biotechnology and its integration with information, nanotechnology and cognitive domains, etc., will have revolutionary influences on weapons and equipment, combat spaces, forms of warfare and military theories.”
Kania and VornDick’s work further states that the Academy of Military Sciences has formed an alliance with a company called Cogrowth, which specializes in the development of electroencephalograms for brain-computer interfaces; it is also exploring the use of artificial intelligence to interpret bio-signals.
The weaponry paradigm does not escape the military minds of the Communist Party of China. For example, General Zhang Shibo believes that current advances in biotech open the possibility of creating new synthetic pathogens that are, quote, “more toxic, more contagious and more resistant.”
CRISPR and the CCP
CRISPR is a tool for gene editing that has been very present in scientific research in the People’s Republic of China. Among its most popular applications are the development of human organs, improvements in agriculture, but also in the creation of highly muscular dogs for use in the police and to strengthen state coercion.
The innovations have also reached humans —despite great rejection by the Chinese medical community— and researchers have succeeded in giving twin brothers immunity to HIV, but also in increasing their cognitive abilities. In this sense, the Chinese regime is supporting improvements in human performance that can be used to increase the effectiveness of soldiers in combat. The researcher advocating this —whose name was not disclosed— also states that since CRISPR has “great potential” as a “disruptive” technology, China should take the lead.
If it achieves its goals, China will provoke a military revolution that will even have repercussions on the very nature of war. Not only in technology, not only in industry, but also in philosophy. The Greek vision of war, conceived in the archetype of the Platonic “guardian” and in Aristotle’s concept of “defense and preservation,” will succumb to the vision of Thomas Hobbes and Machiavelli, where glory, power, and domination are the leitmotifs of the conflict. With such a scenario and with these advantages, few —or none— will be the wars that China might lose in the future.