Note: There is a cornucopia of new items in various places today. There is the regular Monday post on Taki. There is a new feature behind the green door for podcast fans that will be a regular Sunday feature. There is also a review of the classic movie, The Jazz Singer, which may be the most Jewish movie ever made.
One of the interesting side bars to the Covid panic is the extreme lack of interest in the origin of the virus. The story a year ago was that it sprung from so-called “wet markets” where provincials trade exotic meats. One version said it was from bats and another claimed it was the pangolin. Then the story shifted to the lab in Wuhan where the outbreak started. That was dropped as the Chinese Communist Party instructed the American media to stop talking about the lab in Wuhan.
Conventional wisdom says the wet market stuff was always just a way to divert attention from the fact that the Chinese have a bioweapons operation. The Biological Weapons Convention not only prohibits the use of biological agents, but it also prohibits the development of them as well. In light of the worldwide panic over the Covid virus, it is not hard to see why everyone is trying to shift the focus from the lab to exotic meat markets. This public health emergency could easily become a political crisis.
The thing is though, the lab itself and the work that is probably going on there is really just the tip of the iceberg. What the story has revealed thus far is that many Western researchers have had contact with that lab and several others in China. There have been a few arrests of researchers in the West on the grounds they were working on behalf of the Chinese or spying for the Chinese. In other words, there are a lot of Western scientist working in China for some reason.
The reason gets back to that lab in Wuhan. There is no doubt that most Western governments operate biological research facilities. The fact that China is doing the same is no surprise. The difference is Western governments have to worry about whistleblowers who will spill the beans on anything illegal. They also have to worry about anything unethical. The Chinese, in contrast, arrests whistleblowers and harvest their organs. Scandal is not a concern for the ChiComs.
Western bioethics are not a big concern either. Last week, a team of researchers working in China announced they took six-day-old macaque monkey embryos and injected 25 human cells into each of them. The researchers claimed they conducted this study as part of an effort to discover new methods of creating organs. The idea is to use the patient’s DNA to grow new parts. This would not only solve the organ shortage, it would also solve the challenge of finding suitable matches.
The ethics are the obvious concern. In the West, this type of research is considered unethical because it raises questions that we have yet to answer. What if such a hybrid was brought to term? Should a monkey with a significant number of human cells be treated as human or as an animal? Even if it is clearly an animal, deliberately creating monsters just to do it is also unethical. We use animals in lab experiments, but it is not just for the thrill of tormenting them. There needs to be reason.
Again, bioethics are not a concern for China. What matters most to the Chinese is acquiring as much technology as possible as quickly and cheaply as possible. This is why China has become the wild west of bio-research. Western researchers know they can do whatever they want in China. They will be free of Western ethics and get all the money they need. They just have to share their work with their new masters. For many Western scientists, this is not a difficult dilemma.
Of course, they cannot be blatant about it. When the world complained about the use of CRISPR to create the world’s first genetically altered baby, the Chinese arrested the researchers involved and sent them to prison. The message being sent was that the research is fine, but it needs to have a Western face attached. In other words, the imported researchers from the West are not just bringing technical skills, they are providing China with some public relations assistance.
What the Chinese have figured out is they can use the same methods on the Western scientific community as they used to lure Western manufacturers. The promise of cheap labor and loose environmental laws, along with subsidies from the Chinese government, lured business from the West. Sure, it often meant that local Chinese firms pirated the products they were making for Western companies, but that was just a cost of doing business in China. It was still good business.
The tech industry fell for the same deal. They were initially lured to China in order to build out the infrastructure. They got access to a pool of smart engineers, who worked for pennies on the dollar, relative to American engineers. They also got the sweet contracts from the government. The tech companies also got to learn the finer points of population control from the Chinese. This was good business for the Chinese, who were able to accelerate their tech sector.
Some would argue that China is simply freer now than most Western nations, which is why intellectual capital is flowing there. If the Chinese are fine with creating human-monkey hybrids in the lab, then so be it. After all, human medicine advanced to a great degree from grave robbers supply corpses for doctors to dissect. In the 19th century this was immoral, but today we think nothing of it. Bioethics are a social construct and as such they will evolve over time. China is just ahead of the curve.
Whether we like it or not, we will soon learn if those ethical limitations popular in the West are necessary. The Chinese will keep forging ahead, buying Western researchers so they can experiment in the East. Maybe Covid was the wake-up China needed to put some limits on this research. Maybe it was just viewed as the cost of becoming the dominant player in the field. Maybe that cost will be regular pandemics of man-made viruses leaking from Chinese labs.
Most important, what we are seeing is what happens when a society decides that the value of everything is what someone will pay for it. In America, everything has a price, so nothing has value. The elites are happy to trade technology to China, because the only thing that matters is short term profit. From the Chinese perspective, the American empire is not a competitor. It is just a big candy store that she can systematically pick clean until it finally collapses. This is the war China knows it can win.
A new year brings new changes. The same is true for this site as we adjust to the reality of managerial authoritarianism. That means embracing crypto for when the inevitable happens and the traditional outlets are closed. Now more than ever it is important to support the voices that support you. Five bucks a month is not a lot to ask. If you prefer other ways of donating, look at the donate page. Thank you.
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