In the 1987 movie Robocop, Peter Weller portrays a police officer who is nearly killed by criminals, and whose brain and body are used by scientists to create a cyborg policeman, equipped with super strength.
Of course, it all goes wrong, as he battles villains in a dystopian futuristic Detroit. Strictly science fiction you say? Perhaps not.
According to the top intelligence official in the US, China has conducted testing on its army in the hope of creating biologically enhanced soldiers.
John Ratcliffe, a loyalist who has served as Donald Trump’s director of national intelligence since May, made the claims in a newspaper editorial, where he warned that China “poses the greatest threat to America today,” The Guardian reported.
Writing in the Wall Street Journal, Ratcliffe said: “The intelligence is clear: Beijing intends to dominate the US 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.”
Ratcliffe said China had gone to extraordinary lengths to achieve its goal, The Guardian reported.
“US 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,” Ratcliffe wrote.
“There are no ethical boundaries to Beijing’s pursuit of power.”
Ratcliffe, who previously spent five years as a congressman representing Texas, said he had “shifted resources” in the intelligence budget to focus on China.
Many analysts and officials within the government’s intelligence agency have been focused on Russia and counter-terrorism efforts, Ratcliffe said: “But today we must look with clear eyes at the facts in front of us, which make plain that China should be America’s primary national security focus going forward.”
Ratcliffe’s spell as director of national intelligence is due to end in about six weeks, when Joe Biden is sworn in as president, The Guardian reported. Biden has nominated Avril Haines, previously deputy director of the Central Intelligence Agency, to the role.
The enhancement of regular humans engaged in law enforcement or military operations has captured the imagination of many film and TV directors over the years.
Among them, Captain America, Bloodshot and Universal Soldier (trailer above).
Starring Dolph Lundgren and Jean-Claude Van Damme, Universal Soldier tells the tale of soldiers who are genetically enhanced. The troops are capable of healing quickly and are stronger than normal men.
And then there are the Jason Bourne movies, which feature an enhanced special agent, played by Matt Damon, who goes rogue after botching an assassination aboard a yacht.
According to Today News Post, last year, two American scholars wrote a paper examining China’s ambitions to apply biotechnology to the battlefield, including what they said were signs that China was interested in using gene-editing technology to enhance human — and perhaps soldier — performance.
Specifically, the scholars explored Chinese research using the gene-editing tool CRISPR, short for “clusters of regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats.”
CRISPR has been used to treat genetic diseases and modify plants, but Western scientists consider it unethical to seek to manipulate genes to boost the performance of healthy people, Today News Post reported.
“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,” wrote the scholars, Elsa Kania, an expert on Chinese defense technology at the Center for a New American Security, and Wilson VornDick, a consultant on China matters and former US Navy officer.
“Chinese military scientists and strategists have consistently emphasized that biotechnology could become a ‘new strategic commanding heights of the future Revolution in Military Affairs,’” the scholars wrote, quoting a 2015 article in a military newspaper.
One prominent Chinese general, they note, said in 2017 that “modern biotechnology and its integration with information, nano (technology), and the cognitive, etc. domains will have revolutionary influences upon weapons and equipment, the combat spaces, the forms of warfare, and military theories,” Today News Post reported.