US intelligence has revealed that China conducted “human testing” on members of the People’s Liberation Army in hope of developing soldiers with “biologically enhanced capabilities,” NBC reported citing top American intelligence official.
John Ratcliffe, the director of national intelligence, included the explosive claim in a long Wall Street Journal op-ed in which he made the case that China poses the pre-eminent national security threat to the United States, NBC said.
“There are no ethical boundaries to Beijing’s pursuit of power,” wrote Ratcliffe, a Republican former member of Congress from Texas.
“The People’s Republic of China poses the greatest threat to America today, and the greatest threat to democracy and freedom worldwide since World War II,” he wrote. “The intelligence is clear: Beijing intends to dominate the US and the rest of the planet economically, militarily and technologically,” he added.His office and the CIA did not immediately respond to the claims made by Ratcliffe against China.Last year, two American scholars in a paper examining China’s ambitions to apply biotechnology to the battlefield, including that Beijing was interested in using gene-editing technology to enhance human — and perhaps soldier — performance.
The scholars have explored Chinese research using the gene-editing tool CRISPR, short for “clusters of regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats.
“CRISPR has been used to treat genetic diseases and modify plants, but Western scientists consider it unethical to seek to manipulate genes to boost the performance of healthy people. While the potential leveraging of CRISPR to increase human capabilities on the future battlefield remains only a hypothetical possibility at the present, there are indications that Chinese military researchers are starting to explore its potential,” wrote the scholars, Elsa Kania, an expert on Chinese defence technology at the Center for a New American Security, and Wilson VornDick, a consultant on China matters and former Navy officer.
“Chinese military scientists and strategists have consistently emphasized that biotechnology could become a ‘new strategic commanding heights of the future Revolution in Military Affairs,’“ the scholars wrote, quoting a 2015 article in a military newspaper.
One prominent Chinese general, they noted, said in 2017 that “modern biotechnology and its integration with information, nano(technology), and the cognitive, etc. domains will have revolutionary influences upon weapons and equipment, the combat spaces, the forms of warfare, and military theories.”
In a phone interview, VornDick said that he is less concerned about the battlefield advantage such research might provide than he is about the consequences of tampering with human genes.
“When we start playing around with genetic organisms, there could be unforeseen consequences,” he said.Representatives of the Chinese government did not immediately respond to a request for comment.