Modern medical science is simply extraordinary. The advent of biotechnology has allowed for truly innovative research, discovering cures for some of the most complex and dangerous diseases known to humanity. Yet, for all the good biotechnology and advanced medical research can achieve, in the wrong hands, it can be abused and misused. Consider China.
First, a Chinese doctor reportedly birthed two gene-edited babies. Next, Sinogene, a major biotechnology company based in Beijing, is successfully cloning dogs for use in medical research.
These two stories appear to have been filed by most Western media as nothing more than weird human interest stories from abroad. Not so. Each has profound implications.
Obviously, as with many things that emanate from the totalitarian system in China, one can rarely be sure if news broadcast from there is, in fact, true. Even so, many Western medical professionals and researchers are troubled by these alleged developments in China.
And why shouldn’t they be?
In Biotech, Culture Matters
What you are witnessing in China is the convergence of advanced technology with cutting-edge bio-sciences, capable of fundamentally altering all life on this planet according to the capricious whims of a nominally Communist regime.
China routinely places its citizens in horrific slave-labor camps for “political crimes,” tortures and torments any of its people who dare to worship a religion other than the state-approved one of Marxist-Leninism, and has picked fights with its neighbors for decades. The wealthier and more powerful China has become, the more daring has been the totalitarianism of the regime. And, with its newfound wealth and capabilities, firms from all over the world increasingly are seeking to do business in China, thereby empowering the Chinese regime even more.
Advanced American tech companies, such as Google and Apple, have begun moving their artificial intelligence research facilities away from the United States and Europe and into China. Meanwhile, American companies with large defense contracts, like Boeing, have also set up shop in China. Part of doing business in China, though, is that Western firms essentially must give up their crown jewels to Chinese state-owned enterprises. It’s a terrible deal. But in the short-term, it allows those Western firms to gain access to a large, relatively untapped market, boosting their company profits significantly.
The same pattern is at play in biotech.
Western know-how has slowly trickled into China, where the laws and ethical standards are different for developing advanced projects and testing them. The Chinese government is only too happy to gain access to biotechnology that could, as they see it, increase the regime’s ability to enhance their citizenry and enlarge their state coffers.
China has already created a draconian social credit rating score for determining each individual citizen’s worth—with requisite punishments and awards doled out by the government. China has taken the eugenics ethos that once defined Nazi Germany and other totalitarian movements of the last century and refined it to staggeringly sophisticated levels.
Beginning in the late 1970s and until recently, Beijing restricted the number of children average Chinese citizens could have to just one, as they thought, to combat the fear of overpopulation. Given Chinese society’s preference for male offspring over female, the Chinese government allowed for the backdoor institutionalization of female infanticide, where Chinese parents who either wanted their one child to be a boy or who had already one child that was a boy, opted to abort their daughters en masse.
China is a rigid, hierarchical society with a vast surveillance state. Orwell himself could not have envisioned the potency of China’s state power. Giving such an ideological regime the tools of advanced society, like artificial intelligence or biotech, will have negative implications for everyone over the course of many decades.
National Security Implications for the United States
Sinogene, the Chinese company that developed the cloned dog, hopes the creation of clones will allow for cheaper biomedical research. The cloned dog was created with a heart defect meant to allow for medical experimentation. But given the nature of the regime in Beijing, Chinese researchers will be encouraged to perfect their cloning research to the point where human clones can be made for medical experimentation.
Just as with the Chinese doctor who helped to create genetically modified twins, Sinogene aspires to become the premiere organization in developing cost-effective, quick, cures to major diseases (and profiting from them before more judicious Western firms can)—consequences be damned.
These developments are not just about enforcing Chinese state control over its citizenry or creating the “perfect Communist.” They’re not only about beating Western biotech firms out on cutting-edge research. All of these moves have direct implications for American national security.
For example, in 2017, disparate reports began appearing that the Chinese military had been experimenting with what was known as “gene-doping” on their special forces soldiers. By using gene-editing software, like CRISP-R, to enhance select members of their military, the People’s Liberation Army was attempting to create super-soldiers that would be better able to compete against the superior-training of American forces.
Biotechnology development in China is heading in a truly macabre direction. Unsurprisingly, just as with American tech firms today, major U.S. biotech companies (and industry leaders) seem unfazed by the prospect that their know-how might be co-opted by Chinese military planners intent on creating the next great weapon used to kill Americans. They are equally unmoved by the prospect that Western biotechnology investment and knowledge can be harnessed by the Chinese government to be used for totalitarian state control.
Bio-hacking, gene-doping, and genetic manipulation are not only the next frontiers for bettering human life. They are, more troublingly, the battlefields of the future. The West is unprepared. What’s worse is that many Western firms are helping to empower America’s enemies in China.
Perhaps Lenin was right when he said that “the Capitalists will sell us the rope with which we hang them.” Instead of rope, though, perhaps the West is selling China the petri dishes and CRISP-R capabilities with which to kill us. Greater action in Washington must be taken to slow down China’s biotechnology bonanza before the United States finds itself outmatched in this vital area.
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