China Is Biggest Threat To National Security’ (And Has Been Conducting ‘Super-Soldier’ Experiments) Says Ratcliffe

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Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe says that China is the #1 threat to US national security, democracy, and freedom since World War II, and warns that America faces a “once-in-a-generation challenge” to resist Beijing’s effort to reshape the world “in its own image.”

“The intelligence is clear,” writes Ratcliffe in an Wall Street Journal op-ed. “Beijing intends to dominate the U.S. and the rest of the planet economically, militarily and technologically. Many of China’s major public initiatives and prominent companies offer only a layer of camouflage to the activities of the Chinese Communist Party.”

China employs what Ratcliffe calls a “rob, replicate and replace” strategy of economic espionage, by which Beijing robs US companies of their intellectual property, copies it, and then replaces the US firm they stole from in the global marketplace.

Ratcliffe points to the case of Chinese wind-turbine manufacturer Sinovel – which in 2018 a federal jury found guilty of stealing trade secrets from American Superconductor – costing the US firm over 700 jobs and $1 billion in shareholder value. Sinovel now sells wind turbines worldwide “as if it built a legitimate business through ingenuity and hard work rather than theft.

US intelligence agencies, meanwhile, have been hot on China’s trail:

The FBI frequently arrests Chinese nationals for stealing research-and-development secrets. Until the head of Harvard’s Chemistry Department was arrested earlier this year, China was allegedly paying him $50,000 a month as part of a plan to attract top scientists and reward them for stealing information. The professor has pleaded not guilty to making false statements to U.S. authorities. Three scientists were ousted in 2019 from MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston over concerns about China’s theft of cancer research. The U.S. government estimates that China’s intellectual-property theft costs America as much as $500 billion a year, or between $4,000 and $6,000 per U.S. household. –WSJ

Meanwhile, China has also been caught stealing sensitive US defense technology “to fuel President Xi Jinping’s aggressive plan to make China the world’s foremost military power.”

Super soldiers?

In an odd comment, Ratcliffe says that “U.S. intelligence shows that China has even conducted human testing on members of the People’s Liberation Army in hope of developing soldiers with biologically enhanced capabilities,” adding “There are no ethical boundaries to Beijing’s pursuit of power.”

As we noted in April, citing a report published by Defense OneChina has highlighted biology as a military priority, “and the People’s Liberation Army could be at the forefront of expanding and exploiting this knowledge.”

As evidence, the authors provide several examples of the PLA’s strategic writings and research which make clear that they intend to ‘change the form or character of conflict.’ (via Defense One, emphasis ours):

  • In 2010’s War for Biological Dominance (制生权战争), Guo Jiwei (郭继卫), a professor with the Third Military Medical University, emphasizes the impact of biology on future warfare.  
  • In 2015, then-president of the Academy of Military Medical Sciences He Fuchu (贺福初) argued that biotechnology will become the new “strategic commanding heights” of national defense, from biomaterials to “brain control” weapons. Maj. Gen. He has since become the vice president of the Academy of Military Sciences, which leads China’s military science enterprise. 
  • Biology is among seven “new domains of warfare” discussed in a 2017 book by Zhang Shibo (张仕波), a retired general and former president of the National Defense University, who concludes: “Modern biotechnology development is gradually showing strong signs characteristic of an offensive capability,” including the possibility that “specific ethnic genetic attacks” (特定种族基因攻击) could be employed
  • The 2017 edition of Science of Military Strategy (战略学), a textbook published by the PLA’s National Defense University that is considered to be relatively authoritative, debuted a section about biology as a domain of military struggle, similarly mentioning the potential for new kinds of biological warfare to include “specific ethnic genetic attacks.” 

Indeed, China’s military researchers have been attempting to weaponize biology along with advances in other scientific fields of study, such as brain science, supercomputing and artificial intelligence. According to the report, China’s Central Military Commission has been behind projects on military brain science, advanced biomimetic systems, biological and biomimetic materials, human performance enhancement, and “new concept” biotechnology.

In particular, China has focused tremendous efforts on gene editing in humans through CRISPER technology, with over a dozen known clinical trials having been undertaken – including those by controversial Chinese scientist He Jiankui into cloning ‘HIV-resistant’ genetically modified humans. It is unknown if his research was sanctioned or even funded by the CCP, however the Chinese government introduced new watchdog legislation to govern such experiments after He’s research drew international condemnation.

But it is striking how many of China’s CRISPR trials are taking place at the PLA General Hospital, including to fight cancer. Indeed, the PLA’s medical institutions have emerged as major centers for research in gene editing and other new frontiers of military medicine and biotechnology. The PLA’s Academy of Military Medical Sciences, or AMMS, which China touts as its “cradle of training for military medical talent,” was recently placed directly under the purview of the Academy of Military Science, which itself has been transformed to concentrate on scientific and technological innovation. This change could indicate a closer integration of medical science with military research. -Defense One

And in 2016, a PLA doctoral research published a dissertation titled “Research on the Evaluation of Human Performance Enhancement Technology,” which outlined how CRISPR-Cas was one of three primary technologies which could be used to enhance the combat effectiveness of military troops. According to the report, “he supporting research looked at the effectiveness of the drug Modafinil, which has applications in cognitive enhancement; and at transcranial magnetic stimulation, a type of brain stimulation, while also contending that the “great potential” of CRISPR-Cas as a “military deterrence technology in which China should “grasp the initiative” in development.”

Read the rest of Ratcliffe’s Op-Ed here.

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