The House of Representatives’ annual defense bill currently under consideration includes an amendment from Rep. Mike Gallagher that would ban federal agencies from giving taxpayer dollars to China’s largest genomics company, the Beijing Genomics Institute, also known as BGI.
Gallagher, R-Wis., is chairman of the House Select Committee on the Strategic Competition Between the United States and the Chinese Communist Party.
A procurement ban should have been implemented long ago, because BGI poses a potentially enormous national security threat.
The Chinese Communist Party has seemingly developed a disturbing fascination with biological weapons that can target certain populations based on their genetic information. The CCP’s military has been pursuing the application of biotechnology to warfare for more than a decade, including with regard to “specific ethnic genetic attacks.”
Last month, the CCP’s top spy agency wrote about “genetic weapons that target and lethally affect specific racial groups, allowing for selective attacks on targets with particular racial genetic traits.”
In recent years, the Pentagon has warned that Chinese military medical institutions have conducted studies on “identifying, testing and characterizing diverse families of potent toxins with dual-use applications.”
The U.S. government has also warned that it cannot certify that China has eliminated its biological warfare program or is meeting its obligations under the Chemical Weapons Convention.
So, it should raise a big red hammer-and-sickle flag if a CCP government-subsidized genetic-testing company—which is already under partial sanctions for being a part of the CCP’s military apparatus—suddenly started giving away genetic testing equipment all around the world for free or well below market rates.
That’s exactly what BGI is doing, including here in the United States, as a key part of what The Washington Post described as “Beijing’s drive to sweep up DNA from across the planet.”
Although BGI says it’s private, it only exists due to multiple startup investments from the CCP, which has also given it multibillion-dollar loans to purchase competitors’ equipment that it later counterfeited. And according to Wirescreen data, BGI remains in business with the CCP, co-owning at least eight companies with the government.
BGI has been identified by the Pentagon as a “Chinese military company” and is under Commerce Department sanctions due to its role “in the repression of ethnic minorities in China” and because its “collection and analysis of genetic data present a significant risk of diversion to China’s military programs.”
Even if these dangerous connections and their attendant biosecurity and national security risks were less severe, the U.S. already suffers from far too many catastrophic overdependencies on China to stand by and allow more to metastasize.
In the medical space alone, the U.S. has already learned too many painful lessons about the danger of outsourcing critical capabilities to China. For example, our doctors and nurses couldn’t access personal protective equipment early in the COVID-19 pandemic because China disproportionately controlled the supply chain and hoarded that equipment.
U.S. hospitals couldn’t conduct medical scans for part of 2022 because Shanghai locked down, cutting production of a dye needed for imaging. And despite it all, U.S. pharmaceutical imports from China have skyrocketed since the pandemic, even as the U.S. Food and Drug Administration reports that it “cannot determine with any precision the volume of [pharmaceutical ingredients] that China is actually producing, or the volume … manufactured in China that is entering the U.S. market.”
Allowing a CCP-controlled company to dominate genetic testing in the U.S. would be reckless and self-destructive.
China’s leadership knows that, which is precisely why in 2019 it defined genetic information as a strategic natural resource and banned any foreign companies from collecting genetic material in China or moving genetic material outside the country.
Nevertheless, this year, BGI was allowed to reenter the U.S. market, promising “the lowest-ever price point” in the industry through its subsidiaries MGI and Complete Genomics.
It’s a chilling reminder of the need to guard against the industrial subsidization and below-market dumping that the CCP has engaged in for decades to wreak havoc on American industries.
Instead of serving as a wake-up call, BGI has exemplified the incoherence and ineffectiveness of current U.S. sanctions policy. The Pentagon has determined that the company is a part of the CCP’s military, but it is somehow still allowed to receive U.S. investments and to collect the genetic data of American citizens on U.S. soil.
The Commerce Department found that it aids the CCP’s genocide against Uyghurs, but only a few of its subsidiaries have been blocked from buying U.S. technology, when Commerce should have imposed export controls against its entire corporate network.
The U.S. intelligence community knows that BGI is helping China vacuum up DNA from around the world, but the Treasury Department is letting them do so with U.S. dollar transactions.
None of this makes sense.
The Beijing Genomics Institute is exactly the sort of CCP instrument that should be banned from the United States, prohibited from accessing U.S. technology, and cut off from our financial system. The measures taken against it so far don’t even qualify as a slap on the wrist, much less a serious attempt to defend U.S. national security.
Ensuring that Americans’ tax dollars aren’t used to buy their machines and tests should be nonnegotiable, and Congress’ annual defense bill should retain the provision that does so.
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