Features Australia

Beijing’s biotech bullies

Today the Uighurs, tomorrow the world

2 May 2020

9:00 AM

2 May 2020

9:00 AM

Kill a chicken to scare the monkeys, the Chinese say. In this case, Australia is the chook, the butchers in Beijing are holding a knife at the nation’s throat and around the world, monkeys — or at least the highest form of primates, the naked ape — look on in horror.

China’s threat that its consumers, students and tourists will boycott Australian beef, wine, universities and resorts if federal politicians persist in an independent inquiry into the origins of Sars-Cov-2 has at least had one positive outcome — it has made the inquiry unnecessary. Not even the most obsequious Facebook fact-checker could still entertain the ‘whimsical story,’ as Beijing propagandists might put it, that the virus innocently emerged from a cesspool of interspecies intermingling in a Wuhan wet market. If that were true, why the threat of economic obliteration for questioning Chinese propaganda points about the birth of the bat virus?

Australian politicians need to stop being so naive and wise up about the threat the Chinese Communist Party poses. Its foundational precept, as Mao said, is that ‘power grows out of the barrel of a gun,’ might is right and the ends always justifies the means. It is absurd to expect that Xi and the CCP will tell the truth about the coronavirus. Around the world, China’s ‘wolf warrior’ diplomats are baying for blood, calling critics ‘disrespectful’ and tweeting that ‘freedom of expression has its limits.’ China menaced the EU three times to withdraw a report accusing it of running a ‘global disinformation campaign’ about the virus ‘to deflect blame,’ before the EU kowtowed, ‘self-censoring to appease the Chinese Communist Party,’ as one EU analyst put it. ‘Such appeasement will set a terrible precedent and encourage similar coercion in the future,’ she warned. She is right, but the EU, already economically moribund before the virus struck, and now even deeper in debt, has put trade first.

This is the paradox that Australia, and even the world’s only superpower, the US, face. China and the West are mutually dependent on each other for their prosperity but as China grows in wealth it becomes more dangerous and belligerent. World domination has been integral to communism since Marx came up with the idea. The CCP and its enforcer, the People’s Liberation Army, has a plan to ‘make China great again’ and President Xi believes he is the man to bring that about by 2049, the centenary of the founding of the regime. This is not a secret. Xi’s strategy to achieve China’s ‘dream’ was set out at the CCP’s National Congress in 2017. By 2035 China would be a ‘global leader in innovation,’ with a ‘modernised’ military and by 2049 it would have ‘resolved the Taiwan question’ and be a ‘strong country’ with ‘world-class forces.’ Its strategy is to achieve this through military-civil fusion in science and technology. Every scientific or technological advance with a dual civil and military function will be exploited. In 2015, then president of the Academy of Military Medical Sciences, Major General He Fuchu said biotechnology would become the new ‘strategic commanding heights’ of China’s defence. In 2017, the PLA’s Science of Military Strategy included a new section on biological warfare including ‘specific ethnic genetic attacks.’ Meanwhile, it was detaining up to a million Uighurs and computerising their genetic data. China leads the world in gene-editing trials, including editing human embryos in PLA hospitals. Via Beijing Genomics Institute Group, they have access to genetic data here.

Colonel Guo Jiwei, a professor at the PLA’s Third Military Medical University and author of War for Biological Dominance has written extensively on weaponising biotech. In 2005, he wrote, ‘Biotechnological weapons can cause destruction that is both more powerful and more civilised than… conventional killing methods like gunpowder or nuclear weapons. …We can choose military biotechnologies with different pathogenic factors to achieve various military goals. …A military attack might wound an enemy’s genes, proteins, cells, tissues, and organs… (but) such devastating, nonlethal effects will require us to pacify the enemy through post-war reconstruction efforts and hatred control.’

Nobel laureate, world authority on HIV and full-time professor at Shanghai Jiao Tong University, Luc Montagnier, says the Sars-like bat coronavirus was genetically engineered to add in HIV characteristics, notably a souped-up cytokine storm and that China might have done this so that it could develop a vaccine. Why would it need a vaccine for a virus it has engineered into existence? Jiwei writes, ‘After the goal of military operation is achieved or erroneous attack happens, vaccines, drugs, or information about the damaging factor and damaging target can be provided to increase the likelihood of salvage and saving …’. Thus, he claims, aggressive biotechnology gives rise to ‘relatively merciful conquest’ compared to other weapons.

How to deal with a China intent on global domination? Dr Andrew Erickson, professor at the US Naval War College counsels a strategy of ‘competitive coexistence,’ in which the US does not seek to suppress China wholesale but opposes its harmful behaviour; accepts risk and friction to recalibrate Chinese actions that threaten US interests; holds ground in contested areas to thwart Chinese dominance; and reduces tension and pursues shared interests when Beijing will allow. That’s a better plan than no plan at all but it is in defining Beijing’s harmful behaviour, that the moral dimension to the West’s dilemma is exposed.  In choosing appeasement, the EU is not only opening itself up to further blackmail, it is turning a blind eye to China’s crimes against humanity. In 2019, when Sir Geoffrey Nice, a leading international war crimes prosecutor found China guilty of systematically murdering some 90,000 innocent people a year in PLA hospitals to sell for spare parts in a billion-dollar industry including to international transplant tourists, the silence in the West was deafening. This, not climate change, is the greatest moral challenge of our times.

Why should we be surprised that such a society would engineer a virus which has now killed more than 200,000 people and sickened more than three million around the world? If we do not pressure China to stop its barbaric organ trade, how do we live with ourselves? On what moral basis do we protest at whatever horrors come next? To paraphrase Martin Niemoller, the German theologian who bravely resisted the Third Reich: First they came for the Falun Gong, and I did not speak out— because I was not a practitioner. Then they came for the Uighurs, and I did not speak out—because I was not a Uighur. Then, their viruses came — and no-one was brave enough —or disinterested enough —to speak out. Clausewitz scholar Wu Qiong writes that to deprive the enemy of the power of resistance is the real aim of war. We can’t say we weren’t warned.

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