by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
China is amassing large quantities of private American health care data, including sensitive genetic information, as the coronavirus pandemic forces an unprecedented and often unregulated amount of cooperation between the U.S. government and Communist-tied medical companies.
China has “made collecting health care-related data a national priority,” according to a new report submitted to Congress by the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission, which is tasked with analyzing threats posed by the Communist regime. Beijing’s interest in this information extends far beyond the commercial realm. Health care data can help China build complex portfolios on American citizens, inflating the risk they could be targeted, according to the U.S. intelligence community. The U.S. government has repeatedly warned that Beijing could exploit this information but still continues to work with Chinese companies deemed a security threat.
The coronavirus pandemic has exacerbated espionage concerns, according to the report. Chinese genetic sequencing companies and other medical firms have made major inroads in America as the country struggles to provide timely coronavirus testing and analysis to those at risk of getting the virus. China has supplied cheap COVID testing kits, giving it access to Americans’ genetic data, which it can use to build profiles on U.S. citizens. This has heightened worries about how China will use that critical information.
Genetic information “can be used from a counterintelligence perspective to either coerce you or convince you to help the Chinese,” John Demers, a top national security official in the Department of Justice, warned in an October interview.
The coronavirus pandemic has forced the United States to work closer with Chinese medical companies, which provide cheap supplies due to government subsidies. While the Trump administration is angling to crack down on China and its spy apparatus during its final weeks in office, the incoming Biden administration has promised to reset ties with Beijing—potentially paving the way for increased cooperation with Chinese companies.