House Lawmakers Urge Defense Secretary Austin to Add Chinese Biotech Firms to Military List

China’s military and academic literature has argued that ’success on the future battlefield will require achieving biological dominance.’
House Lawmakers Urge Defense Secretary Austin to Add Chinese Biotech Firms to Military List
U.S. Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin talks to the media at the seventh gathering of the Ukraine Defence Contact Group at Ramstein air base in Ramstein-Miesenbach, Germany, on March 19, 2024. (Thomas Niedermueller/Getty Images)
Frank Fang

The top Republican and the Democrat on the House Select Committee on the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) are calling on the Biden administration to add seven Chinese biotech firms to a Pentagon list of “Chinese military companies.”

In a letter sent to Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin on March 29, Rep. Mike Gallagher (R-Wis.) and Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-Ill.) said the seven firms are likely contributors to the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) under China’s military-civil fusion (MCF) strategy.

The seven Chinese biotech companies are MGI Group, Complete Genomics, Innomics, STOmics, Origincell, Yazyme Biotech, and Axbio.

The CCP aims to acquire cutting-edge technologies, including semiconductors and artificial intelligence, via the strategy. According to the State Department, China is implementing the strategy through “licit and illicit means,” such as theft, to achieve military dominance. Private companies, joint research institutes, and academia are “being exploited” to help the CCP’s military advance, often “without their knowledge or consent,” the department warns.

The two lawmakers noted that the CCP’s military and academic literature has argued that “success on the future battlefield will require ‘achieving biological dominance.’” As a result, they urged Mr. Austin to add the companies to the list.

“Urgent action is needed to identify the PRC biotechnology entities at the forefront of this work,” the letter reads, referring to China’s official name, the People’s Republic of China.

MGI Group and Complete Genomics are subsidiaries of PLA-affiliated firm BGI, according to the letter, while Innomics and STOmics are BGI’s subsidiaries operating in the United States.

The Pentagon began adding Chinese companies to its list in June 2020. In January, the Pentagon added BGI, memory chipmaker YMTC, artificial intelligence company Megvii, Chinese train maker CRRC, China Telecom, drone maker DJI, and many other Chinese firms to the list.
Two of BGI’s subsidiaries, Xinjiang Silk Road BGI and Beijing Liuhe BGI, were added to the Commerce Department’s Entity List in 2020 for being implicated in human rights violations in China’s far-western region of Xinjiang.

“MGI uses Complete Genomics in the U.S. market to compete, often obscuring Complete Genomics’ ties to MGI, BGI, and the CCP,” the letter reads. “STOmics is a similarly situated subsidiary, making no mention of its ties to BGI on its English-language website, but STOmics Mandarin-Chinese language website proudly identifies it as a subsidiary of BGI.”

According to the letter, Origincell has ties to the CCP’s United Front Work Department (UFWD).

“Origincell was the prime supplier for a Military-Civil Fusion project to build bio-sample storage bank, and the company has hosted officials from the CCP’s United Front Work Department at their company headquarters,” it reads.

In China, the CCP’s UFWD answers directly to the Central Committee, which is headed by CCP leader Xi Jinping. The UFWD coordinates thousands of groups to carry out foreign political influence operations, suppress dissident voices and activities, gather intelligence, and facilitate the transfer of technology to China.
In December last year, Mr. Gallagher released a video explaining the broad spectrum of the CCP’s operations under the United Front network. One example he gave is China’s talent recruitment program, the Thousand Talents Program.

“Americans need to understand that the CCP’s United Front work is not just a distant-over-there threat. It’s a right-here-at-home threat,” Mr. Gallagher says in his video.

The two lawmakers also requested Mr. Austin attend a briefing with the Select Committee staff before May 1 about how the Pentagon will add more “problematic” Chinese biotechnology companies to its list in accordance with Section 1312 of the National Defense Act for Fiscal Year 2024.

In response to an inquiry from Reuters, the Pentagon said it didn’t have any comment.

“The Department of Defense provides responses directly to members of Congress in matters of this kind,” a department spokesman said in a statement. “We have no additional information or further details to release at this time.”