The United States should cut research collaboration with the Chinese regime so U.S. scientists don’t inadvertently assist Beijing’s biowarfare program, security experts say.
The warning has taken on fresh urgency after recently released documents show that U.S. funding went to coronavirus research at the Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV), the facility at the center of the theory that the pandemic originated from a lab leak.
According to the documents obtained by The Intercept, the National Institutes of Health—via U.S.-based health organization EcoHealth Alliance—awarded nearly $600,000 to the WIV to conduct research, including altering bat coronaviruses that were deemed likely to infect humans.
Any Western funding or research collaboration with the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) directly or indirectly supports the regime’s military goals, including its biowarfare program, according to retired U.S. Army Col. Lawrence Sellin. Sellin has also previously worked at the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases and conducted basic and clinical research in the pharmaceutical industry.
“It’s important to recognize, in China, there is no distinction between military and civilian research,” Sellin said, pointing to the CCP’s national strategy of “civil-military fusion.”
Beijing’s doctrine of civil-military fusion prescribes that technological advancements developed by the private sector be leveraged to further the regime’s military development. The strategy was “mandated by the Chinese Communist Party’s 13th Five-Year Plan in 2016,” although it was unofficially operating prior to this, Sellin told The Epoch Times in an email.
Clare Lopez, a former CIA operations officer, said, “There is a seamless collaboration between military and civilian laboratories in China,” adding that this type of fusion doesn’t exist in the United States.
“Chinese law requires military facilities to have access to everything performed in civilian labs,” Lopez said. She said this became very evident when People’s Liberation Army Maj. Gen. Chen Wei, an expert in biology and chemical weapon defenses, took control of the Wuhan lab during the initial stages of the pandemic in early 2020.
While the WIV, which houses a P4 lab (the highest biosafety level), has denied any relationship with the Chinese military, the institute worked for years with military leaders on a state-sponsored project conducting laboratory animal experiments. A January fact sheet by the U.S. State Department also stated that the WIV has engaged in laboratory animal experiments on behalf of the Chinese military since at least 2017, and worked on “gain-of-function” research to engineer chimeric viruses.
Sellin believes that the pandemic “was the direct outcome of a highly organized and extensive biowarfare program of the CCP.”
In support of that, Sellin said, “one only needs to look at the structure of the virus to know that it contains features, in particular, the furin polybasic cleavage site, [which is] not found in any of hundreds of close bat coronavirus relatives from which the COVID-19 virus could have evolved.”
“The furin polybasic cleavage site has, for over twenty years, been known to increase transmissibility and lethality in coronaviruses and Chinese People’s Liberation Army scientists demonstrated the artificial insertion of such a sequence in 2013”—a genetic engineering technique that has been used for at least a decade.
The U.S. intelligence community, which was directed by President Joe Biden to probe the origins of the pandemic, including the lab-leak theory, recently provided an inclusive report.
US Scientific Collaboration
According to Sellin, China’s People’s Liberation Army leverages “international scientific knowledge and skills, particularly from the United States, through research collaboration and scientist exchange programs.”
“China has made full use of [such collaboration], de facto colonizing specific U.S. research programs that could advance its military objectives,” he said, noting that this includes the development of bioweapons.
In a process he referred to as “scientific chain migration,” Sellin said Chinese scientists have established laboratories in the United States, invited their colleagues, and accessed not only knowledge and skills, but also U.S. government funding. As a result, he suspects that hundreds of millions of U.S. taxpayer dollars have been used to directly or indirectly support the CCP’s biowarfare program.
“Steps must be taken immediately to terminate the hemorrhaging of American knowledge, skills, and research funding, which continues to be funneled into China’s biowarfare program,” Sellin said.
Holding the CCP Accountable
Exposing the CCP’s organization and operation of its biowarfare programs should be a top priority for the international community, according to Sellin. If the CCP’s biowarfare program is going to be rolled back, he said it must begin with the United States taking action.
Lopez agrees, but noted the difficulty in doing so.
“There’s no enforcement mechanism to truly hold the Chinese regime accountable,” Lopez said, also the founder and president of Lopez Liberty.
Both the United States and China are signatories to the Biological Weapons Convention, which forbids states from developing biological weapons. But the only remedy for complaint, she said, would be to go to the U.N. Security Council, where one of the five permanent members includes China, which would veto any action.
“As a result,” Lopez said, “there’s not much incentive to take it to the U.N.”
To a large degree, rolling back the CCP’s biowarfare program rests upon the backs of researchers who continue to turn a blind eye to the regime’s continuing coverup of the pandemic origins, according to Lopez.
She questioned whether U.S. researchers may have unwittingly assisted the efforts of the CCP.
“It’s not that U.S. researchers are necessarily providing assistance, but they know perfectly well the labs in China are working together on bioweapons—and they don’t care.
“At that level of international research, there seems to be a total disregard for the fact they know China runs such a massive bioweapon program,” said Lopez.
In the case of rising scrutiny on the WIV over being the potential source of the pandemic, Lopez said: “U.S. researchers don’t care; they want to do the research they want to do. And if this requires working with Wuhan, they’ll do it anyway.”
This, according to Lopez, indicates “complete disregard for international health security, [as it’s a] total disregard for the kind of research conducted in China that feeds into a biological weapons program.”