A top US intelligence official has claimed that China conducted “human testing” on members of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) in hope of developing soldiers with “biologically enhanced capabilities.”
John Ratcliffe, the director of national intelligence, included the claim in a long Wall Street Journal op-ed in which he argued that China poses the pre-eminent national security threat to the United States.
“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 U.S. and the rest of the planet economically, militarily and technologically,” he added.
In 2019, two American scholars in a paper examining China’s ambitions to apply biotechnology to the battlefield, claimed 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.
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.”