Cotton, Gallagher Urge Biden Administration to Blacklist Chinese Biotech Companies

By Isabel van Brugen
Isabel van Brugen
Isabel van Brugen
Reporter
Isabel van Brugen is an award-winning journalist and currently a news reporter at The Epoch Times. She holds a master's in newspaper journalism from City, University of London.
September 30, 2021 Updated: October 1, 2021

Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.), and Rep. Mike Gallagher (R-Wis.) on Sept. 30 called on the Biden administration to blacklist Chinese biotech companies, citing U.S. national security concerns, and the Chinese regime’s ambitions to “dominate biotechnology.”

In a letter (pdf) to Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo, and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, the Republican lawmakers called for Shenzhen-based company Beijing Genomics Institute (BGI), and others, to be added to the Treasury Department’s Non-SDN Chinese Military Industrial Complex Companies List, the Department of Commerce’s Entity List, and the Department of Defense’s list of Chinese military companies.

The pair argued that Beijing intends to use biotechnology for military purposes against U.S. interests and that BGI, which manages China’s national gene database, has a history of acting on behalf of and collaborating with China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA) as part of the Chinese regime’s strategy of “Military-Civil Fusion.”

Beijing has for years been collecting large amounts of American health care data, using illegal methods such as cyber hacking, investments in American biotech companies, and partnerships with hospitals and universities to gain access to sensitive information.

BGI “is involved in activities contrary to the national security and foreign policy interests of the United States, and it is a clear military-civil fusion contributor to China’s defense industrial base,” they wrote.

Further, the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) focus on biotech extends to its potential military application, the lawmakers cautioned, citing a 2017 publication that detailed how the former head of the PLA National Defense University identified biology as one of seven “new domains of warfare,” including the possibility of “specific ethnic genetic attacks.”

The pair said BGI has purchased U.S. companies and is working to “undercut the global DNA sequencing market” using state subsidies.

“BGI and at least 14 other Chinese companies perform genomic sequencing for U.S. health care patients. As mandated by Chinese law, these companies have almost certainly shared this data with the Chinese government,” they wrote. “Joint BGI-PLA research could have an application in future bioweapons—which is especially concerning because BGI’s national gene bank is presumably made available for military research.”

“The United States must not turn a blind eye to the threat posed by Chinese biotechnology companies operating at the CCP’s behest,” Cotton and Gallagher added in their letter. “Blacklisting BGI and its fellow biotech companies will help the United States counter the Chinese Communist Party’s efforts to capture Americans’ most private information—their DNA.”

In February, the National Counterintelligence and Security Center (NCSC) said in a fact sheet (pdf) that vast amounts of genomic information (a person’s entire genetic sequence) can fuel developments in the cutting-edge field of precision medicine (or personalized medicine), allowing China to overtake the United States to become a global leader in biotech.

Such data can also be weaponized to target individuals in the country for intelligence and military operations, according to the NCSC.

The Epoch Times has contacted the White House for comment.

Cathy He contributed to this report.

Isabel van Brugen
Isabel van Brugen is an award-winning journalist and currently a news reporter at The Epoch Times. She holds a master's in newspaper journalism from City, University of London.