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China’s nanotech aims for invisible arsenal minus the human element

'China’s invisible arsenals encompass a range of advanced weaponry that are distinctly focused on providing the Chinese Communist Party with a range of asymmetric warfare options.'
FPI / September 6, 2023


Chinese advancements in nanotechnology and biotechnology raise new concerns about dual-use, civilian-military applications to produce genetically engineered pathogens for biological warfare, including difficult-to-trace bioweapons, according to reporting by open-source intelligence analysts.

The People’s Liberation Army (PLA) is developing nanoweapons using highly sophisticated microscopic materials that enhance the effects of biological weapons, according to a report last month titled “In the Shadows of Science: Unravelling China’s Invisible Arsenals of Nanoweapons”.

“China’s invisible arsenals encompass a range of advanced weaponry that are distinctly focused on providing the Chinese Communist Party with a range of asymmetric warfare options, including the delivery of biological, biochemical and neurobiological weapons on target populations,” the report said.

Chinese nanotechnology will power autonomous weapons, such as nanorobots, in swarms for spying or military command and control, the report said.

The report was written by L.J. Eads, Ryan Clarke and Xiaoxu Sean Lin, who are experts in Chinese military and arms programs. All have experience in military, defense and intelligence services. They said Chinese advances in nanotechnology could make it more difficult to trace the source of public health crises, including pandemics.

“While the CCP’s attempts to obfuscate the Wuhan Institute of Virology’s role in the SARS-CoV-2/COVID-19 pandemic was unsuccessful, nanotechnology delivery systems would make future investigations and determinations of specific attribution more challenging,” the report said.

China’s biological warfare work is conducted within civilian research institutes, frustrating efforts by intelligence agencies to gather detailed information on the threat.

A key danger outlined in the report is China’s use of nanotechnology medicine that can produce medical advances but also be misused for bioweapons.

“Nanoscale drug delivery systems could be tailored to deliver toxic agents specifically to target individuals or groups, making it challenging to trace the source of the attack,” the report said.

A Chinese team of researchers at the Shenzhen Institute of Advanced Technology, National Center for Nanoscience and Technology, Institute of High Energy Physics, and the Kunming Institute of Zoology produced a nanomaterial that the institutes say can stop the spread of Covid infections by trapping the SARS-CoV-2 virus.

Using another nanotechnology designed to detect nerve agents, the Chinese military could design chemical agents that inhibit chemical activity “leading to severe nerve agent-like effects on the nervous system of the targeted individuals or populations,” the report said.

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