China Pursues ‘Brain Control’ Weaponry in Bid to Command Future of Warfare

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Launching assaults on the battlefield with a mere thought. Enhancing the human brain to create “super warriors.” Disrupting the minds of enemies to make them submit to the controller’s command.

Once believed to only exist in sci-fi movies, the weaponization of the brain has been discussed by Chinese military officials for years. And Beijing is spending billions each year on neuroscience that could draw these scenarios ever closer to reality.

“The study into brain science was born out of a vision for how the future warfare would evolve,” Li Peng, a medical researcher at a subsidiary of China’s state-run Academy of Military Medical Sciences (AMMS), wrote in an article in 2017. Such research, he added, has “an extremely strong military characteristic” and is crucial to securing a “strategic high ground” for every country.

Li was not alone in stressing the urgency in militarizing brain science.

In March, a Chinese military-run newspaper described cloud-powered artificial intelligence (AI) “integrating human and machine” as the key to winning wars. With the accelerating “intelligentization” of the military, it warned, China needs to quickly get a firm footing in this technology, and any delay “could lead to unimaginable consequences.”

‘Qualitative’ Advantage

According to research papers and articles in military newspapers, Chinese military officials see four areas where innovations in brain science could be weaponized.

“Brain emulation” refers to the development of high-intelligence robots that function like humans. “Brain control” is the integration of humans with machines into one, allowing soldiers to perform tasks ordinarily impossible to them. “Superbrain” involves the use of electromagnetic radiation, such as infrasonic waves or ultrasound, to stimulate human brains and activate the brain’s latent potential. The fourth, termed “controlling the brain,” is about applying advanced technology to interfere with—and manipulate—how people think.

Two faculty members with the military-affiliated Army Medical University in a 2018 paper discussed their state-funded project researching a piece of biotechnology dubbed “psycho-virus.” Applied in the military, such psychological weapon could help develop “super warriors” who are “loyal, brave, and strategic;” in wars, the psycho-virus could “manipulate the consciousness of the enemies, crush their will, and interfere with their emotions to make them submit to the will of our side,” the authors said.

Brain scientists may also aid the recovery of handicapped soldiers and systematically elevate the health protection of military personnel, according to a 2019 article on PLA Daily, the official newspaper for the Chinese military, known as the People’s Liberation Army.

While the Chinese Communist Party has been dedicated for years to “getting ahead of the biotechnology arms race,” the evolution of frontier technologies has brought added urgency, according to Sam Kessler, geopolitical adviser at North Star Support Group, a multinational risk management company.

The “improbable futuristic technology that had been dreamed up in the past has now become more realistic in real-time,” he wrote in a note to The Epoch Times. “This creates little room for error as a potential loss of dominance of such technology could potentially lead to the weakening of strategic barriers if left unchecked.”

Concerned about Chinese activities in biotechnology, the United States in December blacklisted China’s AMMS—the country’s top medical research institute run by the Chinese military—and its 11 affiliated biotechnology research institutes, accusing them of developing “purported brain-control weaponry” to further the Chinese military.

By Eva Fu

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