Civil-Military Fusion List: US House Panel Questions Pentagon on Chinese Biotech Firms

Foreign Affairs

Washington: The outgoing chairman of the House’s China-focused committee and its top Democrat are asking the defence secretary to brief Congress on the Pentagon’s assessment of whether several Chinese biotechnology companies belong on a civil-military fusion list.

Chairman Mike Gallagher, who recently announced his imminent resignation from Congress, and Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi,  sent a letter asking Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin for updates on the mandatory assessment, highlighting one company’s operations in the US.

“The [People’s Republic of China’s] 14th five-year plan identifies dominance in biotechnology as critical to ‘strengthen [China’s] science and technological power’ and calls to deepen military-civil science and technology collaboration in the sector,” they wrote in a letter to Austin. “Urgent action is needed to identify the [Chinese] biotechnology entities at the forefront of this work.”

The fiscal 2024 defence policy bill requires the Pentagon to assess whether any biotechnology companies belong on its list of Chinese military firms.

The assessment is due in June, but the letter asks the Pentagon to brief staffers from the House’s Committee on the Chinese Communist Party on the provision by May 1. Gallagher recently announced he will resign on April 19, with Rep. John Moolenaar,  set to take his place as chairman.

Gallagher and Krishnamoorthi singled out six Chinese biotech firms that they believe warrant potential inclusion on the Pentagon’s list of Chinese military companies. The list includes Innomics, which has operated out of Massachusetts since at least 2010 as a subsidiary of China’s BGI Americas Corp. The other BGI subsidiary on the list is STOmics. The four other Chinese biotech companies the letter cites are MGI Group, Origincell, Vazyme Biotech and Axibo.

Congress first mandated the Pentagon maintain a list of Chinese military companies in the FY21 defence policy bill. It requires the Defence Department to track companies “identified as a military civil-fusion contributor to the Chinese defence-industrial base” and “engaged in providing commercial services, manufacturing, producing or exporting.”

The list does not result in sanctions. However, it bans the Defence Department from buying goods or services from the designated Chinese military companies.