China recently raised concerns about what it calls “genetic weapons,” which it believes could be very powerful weapons of mass destruction. The Chinese Ministry of State Security issued a warning on WeChat on October 20, 2023. They claimed that a foreign organization had recruited Chinese people to collect data about biodiversity under the pretense of studying biological species, but China suspects that this data may be stolen.
The ministry didn’t name the countries involved or provide evidence to support their claims. Many scientists have previously dismissed the idea of genetic weapons as a conspiracy theory. In February 2020, the Council on Strategic Risks stated that using bioweapons as a deterrent was not practical because pandemics affect everyone.
However, China argues that these “ethnic bioweapons” are designed for specific ethnic groups, not the general population. In June, a U.S. presidential candidate, Robert F. Kennedy Jr., claimed that China was developing such weapons and suggested the U.S. was too. Russian officials accused Ukraine of making ethnically targeted bioweapons funded by the U.S.
Some experts find it unlikely that such weapons could be developed. They also point out that some medicines have different effects on different ethnicities. Developing these weapons would be time-consuming and challenging.
According to the Chinese ministry, genetic weapons have advantages over traditional biological and chemical weapons because they can be hidden, mislead, spread, and cause long-term harm. They also accuse unnamed countries of using genetic technology to create deadly weapons.
The ministry believes that if they have enough genetic data from various ethnic groups, they could create weapons that target specific racial genes. They emphasize the need to protect biosecurity, including genetic and biological resources, from foreign organizations and individuals conducting espionage.
China’s security agencies claim to have found evidence that a foreign NGO recruited volunteers in China under the guise of studying biological species. This NGO collected extensive data on biological species’ distribution in China and sent the data overseas, potentially endangering China’s biosecurity and ecological security. The ministry stressed the importance of maintaining biosecurity and everyone taking responsibility to ensure biosafety.