Communist China is gaining a significant strategic advantage through its application of artificial intelligence (AI) to DNA editing technologies, according to one British lawmaker.
The Chinese Communist Party (CCP), which rules China as a single-party state, could wield an unprecedented amount of power over the international community if its influence in AI and genomics is not slowed, said UK MP Sir Iain Duncan Smith.
“China now has a head start on applying AI to genomics, which poses a significant threat to our collective national security,” Sir Iain said during a Nov. 28 talk at the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank.
“If China dominates AI and genomics, it will wield unprecedented influence over major industries including, of course, global healthcare.”
Sir Iain’s warning urged the need for heightened vigilance and strategic measures following news that the CCP is harvesting DNA from millions of people around the world through clandestine use of its healthcare products.
A failure to confront the threat, he suggested, could threaten global security in a way unseen since World War II.
“Nothing China does is left to chance,” Sir Iain said.
“The threat that we now face is on par to that which we faced during the Cold War and even that which we faced in the 1930s.”
China Harvesting DNA From Millions of Women and Fetuses Globally
Sir Iain highlighted ongoing investigations across five countries into the CCP’s use of prenatal tests to gather DNA from pregnant women and their fetuses.
The tests, Marketed as “NIFTY,” were designed by Chinese genomics giant BGI in consultation with the CCP’s military wing. The test claims to screen for Down syndrome and other genetic conditions, but the DNA data collected is stored on servers in mainland China, where the CCP can access it at any time.
“These tests allow China to access the genomic data of both mother and fetus from all over the world, and we have granted them the rights to use that data back in China,” Sir Iain said.
“How astonishingly short-sighted was that?”
BGI has also been implicated in other human rights abuses, including the forced harvesting of DNA from predominantly Muslim ethnic minorities in Xinjiang Province. The United States has subsequently blacklisted some units of BGI.
‘New Axis’ Seeks to Expand Brutal Authoritarian Governments
Sir Iain said that the threat needs to be understood within the larger context of a “new axis of totalitarian states” including Iran, North Korea, and Russia, which is led by China.
The four powers, he said, present a “growing threat to the free world” and are increasingly coordinating with “brutal regional powers” like Burma and Syria to propagate their authoritarian vision for the future.
Given that communist China is rapidly becoming the global leader in both AI and genomics, he said, it was imperative that international leadership recognize this new axis poses an “existential risk to humanity.”
To that end, he tied the myriad conflicts being pursued by these powers together, saying that the axis as a whole would need to be confronted.
“The war in Ukraine, the war in Gaza against Hamas, and China’s overt threat to invade Taiwan are all of a piece,” Sir Iain said.
“They are linked inexorably through this axis. To ignore one of these threats is to multiply the danger in the others.”
Similarly, Sir Iain warned that a struggle like those fought in the Cold War and World War II was resurging, and would demand a firm response from the free nations of the world.
“When the Berlin Wall came down, the free world thought that democracy and freedom had won,” Sir Iain said.
“We were wrong.”