Chinese military scientists discussed the long-term psychological damage of bio-weapons on adversaries, their ability to traumatise foreign troops and the advantages of launching biological attacks at much lower cost than traditional warfare.
The Australian has obtained further details about a Chinese-language document written five years before the start of the COVID-19 pandemic that describes SARS coronaviruses as heralding a “new era of genetic weapons” that can be “artificially manipulated into an emerging human disease virus, then weaponised and unleashed in a way never seen before”.
The document, first revealed by The Weekend Australian, also claims bio-weapons could be mass-produced at 0.05 per cent of the cost of traditional weapons when compared to the cost per square kilometre of damage.
Difficulties in building such a weapon are also discussed.
“It is relatively easy to produce a small amount of micro-organisms in a laboratory and also a mass cultivation of microbes in a factory,” it says. It also notes that “there is a big hurdle in developing a weapon system with a large effective destruction area in a real combat situation”.
Prepared by military scientists in 2015, the authors said biological weapons would “not only cause widespread morbidity and mass casualties but also induce formidable psychological pressure that could impact combat effectiveness.”
Chinese document discussing weaponising coronaviruses provides 'chilling' information
Titled The Unnatural Origin of SARS and New Species of Man-Made Viruses as Genetic Bio-weapons, the document outlines China’s progress in the research field of bio-warfare, saying a third world war would be fought using biological weapons.
Among the 18 authors are People’s Liberation Army scientists. The editor-in-chief of the document, Xu Dezhong, was rated as an outstanding lecturer in the PLA, having joined in 1965, and has supervised more than 50 PhD students.
While referring to an overseas study that uses the pneumonic plague as an example of a bio-weapon, the 261-page document claims a death toll of more than 100,000 people could be reached if a city of five million was attacked.
In a chilling echo of many states’ experiences of the COVID-19 pandemic, the authors note that the release of a bio-weapon could have secondary effects by placing enormous burdens on a country’s healthcare system. Using the example of an attack on a city of five million with 10 per cent of the population requiring hospitalisation, the document notes it could “cause the enemy’s medical system to collapse”.
It also outlines the ability for a bio-weapon attack to instil fear and have ongoing psychological and long-term impacts, such as post-traumatic stress disorder, on soldiers and first responders.
“People will live under fear of attack for a considerable period of time after an attack, causing brief or lasting psychological impairment. For some specific high-risk groups, such as individuals with emotionally distraught childhoods, soldiers, in particular those receiving insufficient support and assistance, and rescuers who witnessed bloodshed on the battlefield, mental abnormalities like combat stress reaction will appear months or years after the warfare.
“The longer it takes to develop the symptoms, the more likely the mental disorder will last for a longer period of time,” it reads.
The authors also refer to a 1969 UN report that claims a 10 tonne bio-weapon had 300 times the destruction area of a nuclear weapon.
Australian Strategic Policy Institute executive director Peter Jennings said Western intelligence agencies had known for years that China was engaged in biological weapons research, just as they were involved in chemical and nuclear weapons.
“Obviously this has to be of massive concern because we are talking about weapons of mass destruction,” he said. “There’s a huge volume of publicly available information coming from Chinese scientific researchers that point to a base of knowledge about biological weapons that should worry everyone.
“What’s less clear is what is happening at a secret level that we don’t know about.
“My sense is that around the story of the coronavirus pandemic, there’s a bigger tale to understand about China’s research interests in how these pathogens can be turned into biological weapons.”
In 2020, the US State Department produced its annual report on arms control agreements, -Adherence to and Compliance with Arms Control, Nonproliferation and Disarmament Agreements and Commitments, which noted: “China continues to develop its biotechnology infrastructure and pursue scientific co-operation with countries of concern … The US has compliance concerns with respect to Chinese military medical institutions’ toxin research and development because of the potential dual-use applications and their potential as a biological threat.”
Xu, editor-in-chief of the Chinese-language document, reported to the top party leadership, including the Central Military Commission, during the 2003 SARS crisis, briefing them a total of 24 times.
He also prepared three reports for the General Office of the Chinese Communist Party Central Committee and General Office of the State Council.
Xu wrote several dozen papers over several years outlining his belief that SARS-CoV-1, the virus that caused the SARS epidemic of 2003, was of unnatural origin, with one of his students writing a thesis with the same hypothesis.
New Zealand data scientist Gilles Demaneuf and his colleagues at DRASTIC, an online group of scientists and researchers, said Xu was held in high esteem by the PLA.
“You would think Xu Dezhong may be some fringe scientist based on his conspiracy theories about SARS-1. Well, he is not — he served as a renowned professor of military epidemiology at the Air Force Medical University in Xi’an,” he said.
“His training was really good for sure: in 1981 he went to do some post-doc study in the US, at the very top Baylor College of Medicine and at the US CDC.”
These revelations are exposed in a book by The Australian’s multiple Walkley Award-winning investigations editor Sharri Markson, which also features revelations on China’s early cover-up of the virus.
The book, to be published worldwide by Harper Collins, also features behind-the-scenes accounts of decisions made about the virus outbreak in Wuhan, with accounts from inside Australia’s Parliament House and the White House.