Shocking Report Details China’s Collection of American DNA
The Chinese Communist Party is collecting genetic data from around the globe to create a DNA database they hope to use to overhaul China’s economy, among other things.
A new report from the National Counterintelligence and Security Center confirmed that China has been aggressively working to grow its dominance in artificial intelligence, quantum computing, semiconductors and other technologies to give its economy an edge over the United States and the rest of the world.
Artificial intelligence promises to revolutionize how we do many things ranging from driving cars to manufacturing goods, quantum computing may render encryption void by being able to slip through even the toughest cyber security, and semiconductors are essential in making microchips and processors for all this technology. Each of these technologies will be vital in the future. Using them in concert with data from a massive DNA database can make them even more powerful.
Michael Orlando, the agency’s acting director, told the New York Times that China has spent years working on — or stealing — technological research to better position themselves for the future. He expressed great concern that they may put just as much of a nefarious effort into building out this database of genetic material. There have already been reports that China has been siphoning off American biometric data from popular Chinese-owned apps like TikTok.
“These technologies are critical and we cannot let what happened to other industries happen here,” Orlando said.
A comprehensive pool of genetic information can be used for both benevolent and malicious purposes. Biometric data could be key in creating more effective drugs and treatments for rare diseases. (China already has significant control over much of the world’s pharmaceutical supply.) On the nefarious side, the biometric data could also be used to target groups of people by race, gender, disability, or any other genetic trait. A 2019 report from the New York Times stated that China has already used such a database to track and detain Uyghur Muslims.
Americans may be playing into China’s hand, too, by willingly sharing genetic information with companies that are either owned by Chinese firms or companies that receive heavy investments from China.
BGI, a Chinese-owned company that produced neonatal genetic tests used in many pregnancies, purchased an American genetics firm in 2013 and has since collected the DNA of millions of Americans, according to a report from Reuters. BGI still has many contracts with American hospitals for genetic testing. The Commerce Department penalized BGI’s subsidiaries last year after it was revealed that its genetic analysis was used to target the Uyghur population.
23andMe, a company that provides genetic profiles for people interested in their ancestry, also has some concerning ties to China. WuXi, a Chinese company that recently bought a Pfizer manufacturing facility, also recently made a significant investment in 23andMe which many experts believe is playing a role in developing the biodata base. (Officials from 23andMe have denied that any of their customer’s data has been shared with Chinese companies.)
At best, China’s collection of American genetic information is an economic threat that put’s the U.S. economy several steps behind its Chinese competitors. At worst, the CCP now has the tools to specifically target Americans and potentially harm entire groups of people. America must do what it can to stop China from collecting Americans’ biodata and ensure that American companies are the ones at the forefront of this technology, not the CCP.