China and Russia take active roles as major countries in safeguarding global bio-security

2021-October-18 13:51 By:

The world today is witnessing changes and a pandemic unseen in a century. The COVID-19 pandemic once again rang the alarming bells for global bio-safety. With rapid biotechnology progress, numerous risks and challenges are also increasing, as exemplified by a more prominent “governance deficit”. Recently, the Chinese side read out the Joint Statement by State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi and Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov on Strengthening the Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production and Stockpiling of Bacteriological (Biological) and Toxin Weapons and on their Destruction (BWC), which boosted the global governance on bio-security.

This joint statement underscored the unique value of the Biological Weapons Convention (BWC) as a pillar of the global bio-safety governance framework. The BWC is the first disarmament treaty that bans the development, production, stockpiling, transfer or acquisition of biological weapons of mass destruction. Since its entry into force in 1975, the BWC has played an important role in eliminating the threat and proliferation of biological weapons, as well as promoting international peace and security. However, the BWC also has some flaws, especially the lack of effective verification clauses. Since its entry into force, disputes have continued to arise about whether or not States are complying with the convention.

After the Cold War, the state parties to the BWC stepped up their discussions on the necessity and feasibility of establishing effective verification mechanisms. Multilateral negotiation of the protocol, launched in 1995, almost reached an agreement. However, due to the unilateral withdrawal of the US from the process in 2001 at the Fifth Deliberation Conference, the protocol was blocked at the last minute because "verification may harm the US national security and commercial interests”. Since then, the US has been the only one opposing restarting the negotiation for 20 years, which has greatly weakened the legal effect of the BWC.

What’s worse, over 200 US military biological laboratories are deployed outside its national territory, which function in an opaque and nontransparent manner under direct control of the US Department of Defense and its subsidiaries. The US uses these labs to collect biological genetic information from various countries and conduct researches on infectious diseases, threatening countries where laboratories are located, neighboring countries, and related areas. These biological activities caused serious concerns and questions among the international community.

US domestic military biological activities have aroused widespread concern among all parties. For example, Fort Detrick, coming into the spotlight during this COVID-19 pandemic, is the base camp for US bio-military activities. Many biological safety accidents have occurred in Fort Detrick historically. Also, suspicions of it as the origin of the new coronavirus went viral. In the face of doubts, the US never made a serious statement on the relevant situation, abandoning its diplomatic requirements of an open, transparent, and responsible attitude.

Despite global condemnation, the US opposed the verification mechanism, conduct overseas biological deployment, and carry out high-risk researches, which revealed its egoism. The US can maintain its own biotechnology hegemony by retaining and strengthening its own biological warfare capabilities, ensuring its “absolute safety”. During the pandemic, the US found fault with other countries instead of making introspection.

It uses political manipulation and presumption of guilt to engage in “origin tracing” through intelligence agencies. The US ignored the voice from most members of the international community that they opposed the politicization of the coronavirus origin tracing. The US tried to overthrow the clear conclusions of the China-WHO joint study report to scapegoat China. The "cover-up" approach revealed that the US is somehow weak in its compliance with BWC obligations.

China and Russia, with influence in international affairs, stand ready to strengthen the authority and effectiveness of the BWC, playing the role as the ballast stone in international strategic stability. Both the Joint Statement on Strengthening Global Strategic Stability by the Chinese and Russian presidents in June 2016 and the Joint Statement on Strengthening Contemporary Global Strategic Stability of the PRC and the Russian Federation in June 2019, clearly attach great importance to the control of biological weapons and terrorism. In this joint statement on the BWC, China and Russia have jointly proposed new initiatives that are conducive to collective security and peaceful cooperation, leading the world in improving implementation mechanisms, demonstrating the responsibility as major countries.

Bio-safety has become one of the most urgent and prominent issues facing all mankind. Under the concept of a community of shared future for mankind, countries worldwide should shoulder historical responsibilities to strengthen BWC implementation to control biological arms. Only by doing so can we build an “immunological barrier” to safeguard global bio-security.

Contributed by Xu Jian, President of the Foreign Affairs University

Translated by Wu You

Editor: Zhang Zhou
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