In the minds of the right, the international communist threat is back. And this time, it’s not just personal — it’s genetic.
At least, that’s according to a letter that Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR) sent to President Biden this week.
In the letter, Cotton warns Biden that Beijing plans on using the 2022 Winter Olympics as a giant funnel for precious American DNA, harvesting the nation’s fittest and finest for their genomic information as part of a plan to achieve military dominance.
Written in the language of a Cold War-era B-movie and filled with a mixture of sci-fi scheming, eugenics, and stentorian warning, Cotton demands that Biden withdraw American participation from the 2022 winter Olympics absent guarantees from China that it will not collect the data or DNA of visiting American olympians.
“In 2022, thousands of world-class athletes will gather to compete in China,” the letter reads. “Their DNA will present an irresistible target for the CCP.”
He added that, “thus, we should expect that the Chinese government will attempt to collect genetic samples of Olympians at the Games, perhaps disguised as testing for illegal drugs or COVID-19.”
Why, you, the White House, or unsuspecting internationally ranked snowboarders may ask, would the Chinese government wish to do this?
The answer, Cotton wrote, is simple: supersoldiers.
“The CCP has reportedly conducted tests to develop biologically-enhanced soldiers and intends to use DNA data to catapult Chinese biotechnology companies to global market dominance,” Cotton wrote, citing a column written by Trump-era Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe.
Cotton’s office did not return TPM’s request for comment. But his terror that red-blooded American winter athletes could have their genetic information harvested by Communists hell-bent on world domination has a background in the fever swamps of the late Trump period.
Gordon Chang, author of the 2001 book “The Coming Collapse of China,” supports Cotton’s demands, though he told TPM that he did not consult with the senator on the letter.
“If you want to develop a race of superhuman Chinese, you would certainly want the DNA of the world’s most fit and athletic people,” Chang said. He added that the Chinese could harvest the flood of figure skaters, curling players, and bobsleigh jockeys for their most promising traits, though he said that Beijing would most likely be interested in “superintelligence.”
Chang echoed Cotton’s suggestion that the Chinese would harvest DNA through COVID testing.
The athletes, Chang mused, “are going to eat stuff, leave napkins around the place — they’re going to poop. They’re going to leave a lot of DNA.”
Ratcliffe wrote in his December 2020 Wall Street Journal column that “China has even conducted human testing on members of the People’s Liberation Army in hope of developing soldiers with biologically enhanced capabilities,” citing unspecified intelligence.
That strain of thought appears to have made it into the intelligence community itself, with the National Counterintelligence and Security Center in February 2021 releasing a fact sheet cited in Cotton’s letter titled “CHINA’S COLLECTION OF GENOMIC AND OTHER HEATHCARE DATA FROM AMERICA: RISKS TO PRIVACY AND U.S. ECONOMIC AND NATIONAL SECURITY.”
That document informs readers that “your DNA is the most valuable thing you own.” A DNI spokesman told TPM that the agency stands by the report.
“Losing your DNA is not like losing a credit card,” the document reads. “You can order a new credit card, but you cannot replace your DNA.”
It’s a bit of a non-sequitur from there to the document’s next claim, which is not that the Chinese plan on depriving you, citizen, of your DNA: rather, it is a “strategic commodity to be collected and used for its economic and national-security priorities.”
The document is silent on what exact uses the Chinese would have for American genetic material. It cites the country’s sprawling and invasive surveillance system, saying that Beijing includes genomic information to identify its citizens and links the collection of DNA to the mass internment of the Uighur minority.
It’s totally unclear how those abuses relate to a supersoldier program.
But according to Cleo Paskal, a senior fellow at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies whose May column “Is Beijing Planning a Rob, Replicate, Replace Olympics?” was cited in Cotton’s letter, it has to do with war.
“There are defensive and offensive aspects to it,” Paskal told TPM. “One is you could understand better the genetics of high performing individuals, lung capacity, heart, the other is that you could figure out how to attack people from a wide range of different genetic profile backgrounds.”
She told TPM that Cotton’s office had called her to verify a quote in the letter that it eventually sent to Biden.
FDD has long distinguished itself as one of D.C.’s most hawkish think tanks among a blob of foreign policy outfits that already make themselves known for favoring military solutions whenever possible.
Paskal told TPM that China was likely planning on using information gathered from the Beijing Winter Olympics to refine its military operations against India in the cold-weather, high-altitude Himalaya mountains. The two nations clashed there last year.
“If you’re involved in cold weather fighting — which they are in the Himalayas, they’ve now got people who have spent millions of dollars perfecting cold weather equipment — the tech is coming to you,” she said, referring to the Olympics. “As is the training regime — how do you train to be in top shape in cold weather environments? What do you eat? How do you combine individual genetics with training to be most effective.”
Chang, the author, took it even further — the offensive capability would not just be supersoldiers, but superweapons: “pathogens that leave the Chinese immune but sicken and kill everyone else.”
When asked whether the technology was there for that, he replied, “I don’t know if they’ve developed those pathogens, but we don’t want the first evidence of that to be 330 million dead Americans.”