Supersoldiers: A Reality?

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Allauddin Khan

David Mohrmann, Editor

To say the United States has a complicated relationship with China would be an understatement. Currently, the United States and China have mutual political, economic, and security interests, but there are also unresolved concerns relating to human rights and to the role of democracy in the Chinese government. The relations have deteriorated under President Donald Trump, whose administration labeled China a “strategic competitor” starting with the 2017 National Security Strategy. In 2018, the U.S. Department of Justice initiated a “China Initiative” to “combat economic espionage.”

China has most recently made headlines as John Ratcliffe, the U.S. Director of National Intelligence since May, claims that human testing is happening in China that aims to develop soldiers with “biologically enhanced capabilities.” This certainly would support Ratcliffe’s claim that China “poses the greatest threat to America today.” In an article published in the Wall Street Journal, Ratcliffe wrote, “US intelligence shows that China has even conducted human testing on members of the People’s Liberation Army in hope of developing soldiers with biologically enhanced capabilities. There are no ethical boundaries to Beijing’s pursuit of power.” 

Perhaps these claims of China creating “supersoldiers” are only fabrications, but if they are true, China would not only have an advantage over other countries with its military, but modern warfare would also expand in a more horrific and destructive way. Throughout history, the race for some countries to be better than others has arguably resulted in a more advanced society, but it has also been proven to do the opposite and lead to greater violence and brutality. For example, the first large-scale use of lethal poison gas on the battlefield was by the Germans on April 22, 1915, during the Battle of Second Ypres. This provided an advantage to the Germans in warfare, but it had devastating effects on victims, such as blistering the skin, eyes, and lungs, as well as resulting in the death of thousands. Compared to chemical warfare, this advancement of “supersoldiers” is of equal or greater importance, but as a result it may also cause great harm to soldiers in combat and the world in general. 

In the past, rules of war have been put in place to balance the aspects of weakening the enemy, while also limiting suffering. International humanitarian law is a set of international rules that set out what can and cannot be done during an armed conflict. The Geneva Conventions are universal and have been ratified by all 196 states. One of the most important instances of this was the signing of the Geneva Conventions at Geneva on July 27, 1929, which covered the treatment of prisoners of war during World War II.  If these experiments for creating “supersoldiers” proves fruitful, it is important that the world treats it similarly to other advances and put rules in place to try and maintain humanity.