The early 1990s Hollywood science fiction blockbuster Universal Soldier featured part-cyborg, part-genetically enhanced “super soldiers.” Three decades later, China appears to be taking its first step toward making biologically enhanced troops a reality.
US Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe made the claim in an opinion piece, titled “China is national security threat No. 1,” published on Thursday last week by the Wall Street Journal.
Ratcliffe wrote that China is developing “world-class capabilities in emerging technologies” and US intelligence shows this includes “conducting human testing on members of the People’s Liberation Army [PLA] in the hope of developing soldiers with biologically enhanced capabilities.”
Some have dismissed the claim as alarmist and an attempt by US President Donald Trump to bolster his administration’s “tough-on-China” legacy. Although the Trump administration has not provided evidence to back up Ratcliffe’s claim, there are strong indications that China is moving in this direction, which should worry Taiwan’s military.
In November 2018, US-educated Chinese biophysics researcher He Jiankui (賀建奎) sparked controversy after announcing he had carried out the world’s first known instance of gene editing on humans, removing a gene from twin babies to make them immune to HIV. He was subsequently fined and sentenced to three years in jail for breaching China’s ban on genetic experiments on humans.
However, on Oct. 8 last year, US think tank the Jamestown Foundation published a paper titled “China’s military biotech frontier,” in which the authors showed that China is at the forefront of research into an advanced technique for gene editing called CRISPR-Cas9, and is exploring its military applications.
“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,” they wrote.
The authors concluded that the PLA is also exploring bionic robotics, intelligent exoskeletons and techniques for human-machine collaboration under the government’s national strategy of “military-civil fusion,” which encourages collaboration between universities, private enterprise and the military.
Unfortunately, it appears that the genie might already be out of the bottle, as French Minister of the Armed Forces Florence Parly last week announced that French armed forces have been given permission to begin researching “enhanced soldiers.”
Although France has no immediate plans to develop “invasive” technology for its soldiers, “we must face the facts ... not everyone shares our scruples and we must be prepared for whatever the future holds,” Parly said in an apparent reference to China.
France must find ways to “maintain our operational superiority without turning our backs on our values,” she said.
The Pentagon is also reportedly researching “human enhancement technologies,” while billionaire US technology entrepreneur Elon Musk’s Neuralink is in the early stages of developing computer chip implants to solve ailments and injuries, which could have military applications.
Like France, the US approach appears to be guided by ethical concerns, including the voluntary and reversible nature of human augmentation technologies. Totalitarian states such as China would likely be unencumbered by such concerns.
Taiwan’s military and intelligence community must closely monitor Chinese research into gene editing and other biologically enhanced capabilities, and consider developing a robust ethical framework to allow for comparable Taiwanese research. This would ensure that the nation is at the forefront of next-generation medicine and therapeutics and — crucially — is able to remain militarily competitive with China.
The Jumbo Floating Restaurant was a landmark in Hong Kong for nearly half a century. The palatial restaurant, with its pastiche Chinese architecture and neon lights perfectly encapsulated the territory’s beguiling balance of East and West, tradition and modernity. It was a feature backdrop in numerous Hong Kong films. However, forced to close amid the stringent COVID-19 lockdown policies of Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam (林鄭月娥) and denied financial support from her government, the floating temple to Cantonese gastronomy was towed from its mooring in Aberdeen Harbour this month by its owners with its planned destination not released. On June
Ned Price, spokesperson of the United States Department of State, is a Twitter influencer at the exalted “celebrity/macro” rank. So, even though it was well after working hours on Friday evening, May 20, 2022 — as Secretary of State Antony Blinken prepared for President Biden’s first presidential trip to Asia — Ned Price was sure of an audience as he “tweeted” the following message: “The PRC continues to publicly misrepresent U.S. policy. The United States does not subscribe to the PRC’s ‘one China principle’ — we remain committed to our longstanding, bipartisan one China policy, guided by the Taiwan Relations Act,
Opinion polls show that Taiwan’s judicial system and law enforcement “enjoy” low approval ratings among Taiwanese. In spite of data showing low crime rates, many Taiwanese drivers have faced aggressive driving, unprovoked road rage, road blocking and unmotivated police officers. Some criminals seem to consider themselves above the law, which is not completely wrong. Reports about so-called “road blocking” can be found in newspapers or on YouTube. An example of this is when “road rowdies” block a vehicle on a road, get out of their vehicle and start to attack the occupants of the blocked vehicle — often attacking in a
An April circular by the Chinese Ministry of Education on student admission criteria at Tibetan universities has been harrowing and discriminating to say the least. The circular said that prospective students must state their “political attitude and ideological morality” to be considered for admission. It also said that students should not be involved in religious movements and students who are proficient in Marxist theory should be preferred. Since Beijing started occupying Tibet, it has meticulously introduced policies to dismantle the Tibetan education system, which is closely tied to its rich monastic tradition, and has even pulled students from Afghanistan and eastern