The Chinese military and flu as a biological weapon

In a speech alleged to have been written in 2005 by Chi Haotian, then Minster of Defense and vice-chairman of China’s Central Military Commission, he is reported as saying the following:

What kind of special means is there available for us to “clean up” America? Conventional weapons such as fighters, canons, missiles and battleships won’t do; neither will highly destructive weapons such as nuclear weapons. We are not as foolish as to want to perish together with America by using nuclear weapons, despite the fact that we have been exclaiming that we will have the Taiwan issue resolved at whatever cost. Only by using non-destructive weapons that can kill many people will we be able to reserve America for ourselves. There has been rapid development of modern biological technology, and new bio weapons have been invented one after another. Of course we have not been idle; in the past years we have seized the opportunity to master weapons of this kind. We are capable of achieving our purpose of “cleaning up” America all of a sudden.

You can read the whole speech here.

There has been no authoritative debunking or confirmation of the authenticity of this speech. In another blog, I gave my reasons for suggesting that it appears to be genuine.

One of the things that did bother me about the speech was the inclusion of pseudoscientifc nonsense and dumb conspiracy theories. Some examples:

According to the speech, the Chinese people have a special evolutionary history and are separate from all other humans. This is refuted by literally tons of genetic data. It is further claimed that China is benefiting from Israeli research on genetic weapons directed against Arabs. This is really stupid. Anyone who knows anything about the genetics of the Middle East knows that such a weapon would be impossible, even in theory. Finally, the old conspiracy theory that Bill Gates and other powerful businessmen want to decrease the world population is presented as fact. I have problems with some Microsoft products, but only a loon would think that Mr. Gates, who has given generously to many charities that save lives, wants to wipe out 80% of the world population.

Do members of the Chinese military and government really believe such nonsense or at least say they do?

The answer is yes.

From the Washington Post, April 9, 2013:

Colonel Dai Xu of the People’s Liberation Army wrote online that the new strain of bird flu hitting China, known as H7N9, is an American “bio-psychological weapon” meant to destabilize China. The rant, posted to Dai’s account on the Twitter-like service Weibo, had already been shared by more than 30,000 fellow users by the time that the South China Morning Post reported it on Monday. Dai now has a quarter million followers on Weibo, which is quite a platform.

In general, Chinese Web users appear to have rejected Dai’s argument. In response to the criticism, though, he’s only dug in. “It is common knowledge that a group of people in China have been injected with mental toxin by the U.S.,” he wrote at one point. “I will not retreat even half a step.” He urged Chinese officials to ignore the virus’s apparent spread and argued that the disastrous 2003 SARS outbreak was also an American plot.

The terms “bio-psychological weapon” and “mental toxin” have the same pseudoscientific flavor as the speech alleged to have been given by Chi Haotian. So too does the endorsement of a ridiculous conspiracy theory.

Given the alarming lethality and spread of H7N9, it is not surprising that the Chinese government would want to evade responsibility for the virus. But why allow, or more likely direct, a member of the Chinese military to spread such a silly rumor? We really don’t know what is the origin of H7N9. The involvement of the PLA in a cover story is concerning, especially in light of the speech by Chi Haotian.

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