• 17 May, 2022
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China Is Preparing For The Next Pandemic, Are We ?

Cdr Sandeep Dhawan (Retd) Fri, 14 Jan 2022   |  Reading Time: 6 minutes

A hypothetical scenario: The year is 2030. It’s been five years since you or your family members have stepped outside your home. It’s too dangerous out there. This pandemic is deadlier than anything humanity has seen before. Death is lurking in every corner of the city. It requires special gear to move in the dangerous outside environment. The world is mostly being run by machines or a select few with the highest security clearance.

Perhaps, in pre-COVID days you could have laughed it off, but today the scenario looks very much plausible. More and more advanced economies are investing in Level-4 labs and indulging in dual-use research on pathogens. Each one points a finger at the other and gets going with the illegal research with extra vigour.

History has it that in the Peloponnesian war, Spartans lured Athenians into mosquito-infested regions. 70 per cent of Athenians died or were incapacitated due to malaria. A chapter in biological warfare had begun. Could a modern-day biological war be around the corner? How well-prepared India or the other free world nations are?

The China Story

There are over 112 Biosafety Level-3 (BSL-3) labs in China. They have plans to build seven BSL-4 labs by 2025 (Harbin, Beijing and Kunming included). The notorious and world’s largest BSL-4 lab, Wuhan Institute of Virology, situated on the outskirts of Wuhan is the first one on the impressive list. It is one of the 59 maximum containment labs in operation around the world.

BSL-4 labs are designed and built so that researchers can safely work with the most dangerous pathogens on earth. These pathogens can cause serious diseases. Since these pathogens are still being studied that means no treatment or vaccine is existing to fight against them. Researchers wear full-body pressurised suits with independent oxygen. As per Richard Ebright, a molecular biologist at Rutgers University, New Jersey, “despite such stringent rules the SARS virus has escaped from high-level containment facilities in Beijing, multiple times, how and why?”

Could the same be the case with the coronavirus? It has killed 5.26 million people across the world and counting. It has wiped out trillions of dollars in economic production and turned life topsy-turvy for billions of people, without any accountability from China. We may never know the real story of Covid-19, but it certainly was being experimented on and weaponized in Wuhan, and its escape could be deliberate or accidental.

BSL Labs World Map: Courtesy non-science.com

Why Panic Now

History tells us that the outbreak of SARS took place in 2003, swine flu in 2009, Ebola in 2014, Zika in 2016 and COVID-19 in 2019. At this rate, 2025 is looking ominous.

From Mers-carrying camels in Africa to the pigs with influenza in Europe, H1N1 virus Swine Flu of North America, Nipah virus of East Asia, Zika mosquitoes of North America, Yellow Fever monkeys of South America, Flesh-eating bacteria or Buruli ulcer of Australia, H7N9 Bird Flu of China. The list goes on. Rogue nations like China are getting impatient at the pace of their world dominance. This makes them a very dangerous country. To fulfil their ambition, which virus they would weaponize and unleash upon humanity is anybody’s guess.

Guan Yi of the University of Hong Kong, School of Public Health, predicts H7N9 to be the biggest threat to public health in 100 years. Other scientists feel that Nipah, with 70% of death rate, capability to infect a wide range of animals, long incubation period and with no existing vaccine, could be the next pandemic in the making.

Mosquito Aedes vittatus is capable of carrying nearly all of the most dangerous mosquito-borne diseases, except for malaria. Across the world, 20 of the top 50 diseases that affect the military are carried by mosquitoes. Entomologists also call Aedes vittatus a “container breeder”. If only a deadly lab modified virus is carried by these mosquitoes, the pandemic would travel far and wide, at breakneck speed, incapacitating militaries and factory workers alike.

The Machine World

While the world was struggling with the accidental or deliberate pandemic, a very interesting development took place in China. In December 2021, China released a five-year smart manufacturing development plan, Made in China 2025 (MIC25). In the plan, China aims at doubling the density of robots at an annual rate of 20% in the next three years.

This looks like a very innocuous and legitimate ambition of a free nation (pun intended). However, there are solid reasons behind this policy. China has already witnessed the production coming to a grinding halt when the pandemic hit them hard. Another issue staring directly at Chinese policymakers is the declining population with no solution in sight. This made the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) think hard. They came out with a solution. If during the pandemic there were a sufficient number of robots on the factory floors, the economic slowdown could have been avoided.

Courtesy: ifr.org

According to the International Federation of Robotics, China in 2020 with an overall 246 robots per 10000 employees, ranked 9th in robot density. This was up from 49 robots (position 25th) in 2015. China is neck to neck with the United States at 255 but still lags behind world number one, South Korea, which has a current density of 932. The world average is 126 robots per 10000 employees.

China is the world leader in robotics patents, accounting for nearly 35 per cent of the global output in the last 15 years. The US was a distant second with 13 per cent. As part of the latest plan, China aims to digitise 70 percent of domestic manufacturers by 2025 and be among the world’s best by 2035.

The Indian Perspective

IFR report says that India has 99 industrial robots per 10000 employees. This is one fourth of Indonesian (440 units) and one seventh of Chinese (732 units) density. Of course, India is no where near the frontrunner South Korea (2,589 units). In the manufacturing industry also India has a dismal record of just 4 robots per 10000 employees. Tharman Shanmugaratnam of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) says that India has only a decade to get its act together. India’s labor-intensive manufacturing would not survive in its present form when the machines take over.

Why We are Talking This

Nikkei’s 33 economists survey expected China’s economy to expand 7.9% in 2021 and 5.1% in 2022. IMF also had similar growth projections for China, 8.0% in 2021 and 5.6% in 2022.

Courtesy: Nikkei

The sluggish Chinese economy hit hard by crashed real estate, caged technology companies, and plummeted population growth will not be able to survive another lockdown due to a pandemic.

The pandemic has corroborated the general Chinese economic slowdown that had already been lurking in the shadows for several years. Since China is running out of options to find new drivers for its growth. They are going to implement this chaos doctrine with impunity — “Replace the Beams with Rotten Timbers”: Take out the leading asset of your target, denying your enemy the resources needed to oppose you.

Everyone has been breaking their head over the question — how COVID-19 spread to the remotest of the islands? People wonder how the virus travelled the globe. They forget, China is the factory of the world. Did China knowingly or unknowingly packed coronavirus along with the goods and transported it across the globe?

During Peloponnesian war if Athenians had robot soldiers the outcome would have been different. China understands this. Therefore when the next pandemic is unleashed over the world, China will be ready with robot workers and soldiers. Positioning robot soldiers in Tibet against India seems to be part of the same grand strategy. The world would stop and China would keep churning out goods, making the world completely dependent on China.

What Should India Do

The only silver lining is that Chinese companies are not ready for such technological transformation and that too at such fast pace. Therefore, MIC25 may partially succeed. But it should not make India and other nations, complacent. India needs to work on war footing on a dual approach to handle the next biological war — automation; and enhanced biological research capacity, and capability.

India has only two BSL-4 labs — one at National Institute of Virology (NIV), Pune, and second at High Security Animal Disease Laboratory, Bhopal. Rajiv Gandhi Centre for Biotechnology (RGCB), Trivandrum, is awaiting nod for an upgrade to BSL-4. There are 6 BSL-3 labs and 293 BSL-2 facility in India.

Among the list of manufacturers in the world, India stands at number six, however, Indian workers’ & companies’ productivity is one-seventh of American businesses and workers‘ output. Why? Because India is counted among the nations that have the lowest counts of robots in the world.

India needs to double down the road of reforms. China and other adversaries will keep putting impediments in Indian reforms in the factories, the farm and various other sectors, so that the production comes to a grinding halt when the next pandemic hits. That is where the grit and determination of the government of India would be put to test. Are they ready for it?

Evil isn’t the only threat to the world. Ill-preparedness, ignorance and servitude are just as destructive as Evil, and much more widespread. ~ Insightful Geopolitics

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Author
A veteran of the Indian Navy, Cdr Dhawan served in the Navy from 1988 to 2009. He was a Maritime Reconnaissance Pilot and a Flying Instructor. He is a geopolitical analyst and writes for various online websites and organizations.

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POST COMMENTS (24)

Shaily rawat

Feb 05, 2022
... another well researched and well written article ... India's pharma base is growing bigger n Bigger ... There definitely exists s need to upgrade our labs and involVlve this sector to be ready to take on future threats ... As also across all other industries ... India does need to formulate a roadmap on this having learnt it's lessons well from the pandemic waves n foreseeing the situations in future ... I think india has the resilience n the budget n the willpower to set it's house straight n future ready ... One year if India's turn around in the pandemic has already showed that ...

Ajay Gupta

Feb 01, 2022
By 2030, china wud lose its expansive territories and get shrinked to its mainland china. by 2040, that too wud get wiped off. same is with pak. by 2024 pak wud get shrinked to just punjab pak. by 2032, india wud become superpower. US, Russia etc wud all go down

ST

Jan 24, 2022
Do not find your article: 5G Technology on Collision Course With Aviation? Anyway, I might as well kick the tires since I'm here already.

YOGESH PAI

Jan 20, 2022
very well written article on a very pertinent topic concerning national security. This has implications across sectors, across nations- affecting our growth - be it farming, industry, economy, supply chain management and even Defense. All sectors must take note and chalk out respective plans for automation to meet any such pandemic contingency in future. Finally, the long term solution is to stop this rouge country China from its continuous attack on the world. This can be possible if all countries get together surround china and if required use force in the form of a coordinated nuclear attack on multiple vantage points in china to at least cripple their virus research and development facilities. As the hindi saying goes " na rahega baans na bajegi baansuri!" . Congratulations Sandy for another master piece of analysis. Keep them coming Bro!

Ajay Maini

Jan 19, 2022
The article has touched an altogether new domain few would have thought of. There are two aspects here - fighting any new pandemic with robots, and intentionally causing another pandemic to cause widespread destruction to adversaries while preserving own economy through robotic usage in as many domains as possible. In my opinion, COVID has forced all nations, specially India, to rethink and critically evaluate their ongoing and future relationship with China in all domains - political, diplomatic, business, military and academic. COVID has also forced nations to think about developing a strategy to fight all future pandemics; progress made in the last two years are a proof of that; robotics are an important part of it, besides pharma, essential manufacturing, fighting potential and some others. It has also set in motion the process of moving away from China-dependent manufacturing in all possible fields; this will, of course, take several years, if not decades; its easier said than done. Any future pandemic, emanating from any nation, has the potential to spread all over the globe within a few months. China itself will be affected. Omicron is already severely affecting it and also the Winter Olympics it wants to organize. While it is may not be easily possible to rein in China, I am sure, it will itself think hard before behaving in the manner it has during COVID. And if in spite of everything, China again tries to thrust the whole world into chaos, then, I am sure, the rest of the world will also have to decide whether to initiate an all out campaign/retaliation against China or to helplessly suffer again. I would say it will be the former..... that's what the natural human behavior is. Only time will tell!

Rajesh Dhawan

Jan 17, 2022
Once again an article with lots of facts and figures. The article focuses India to shift it's focus towards aggressive future moves by China but with present mind set of our politicians it is not the priority. They are now-a-days engaged to give government exchequer free to everyone and nothing will be left to counter China. Even then I am confident about my Indian Scientists, Technologist, workers who will come up better when it would be needed. When computers were to be brought first time in India for general use, there was huge objection to it and at that time Indians were knowing nothing about it than using it. And now they one of the biggest software exporter. With present activities by China I see a ray of light that rest of world has already started shifting their manufacturing base in India and that's why India's GDP is increasing faster than China. As I told earlier, China is creating BHASMASUR for rest of the world but next the same BHASMASUR will put it's big hand on China to destroy it. Anyway, good analytical, good to read article.

K Sreenivas

Jan 16, 2022
Really insightful. Wonder how their think tank can scheme so much. Credit goes to you for spotting their nefarious plan. But even if India increased Robots wonder how the human race will survive the next pandemic. Am sure they will target all Pharma companies before launching the next virus so there will be no solutions. Keep up the investigative journalism.

Rominad

Jan 16, 2022
Awesome read. Seems like a scene from a sci-fi movie or a novel by Issac Asimov, shocking and scary.

Cdr Deepak Singh

Jan 16, 2022
Great information for me. I had not much bothered about this information. Now I know who stands where in Robot world. Time to pick up pace. India has been a late starter in technology. We have begun but lacking pace. Waiting for your next article Sandeep.

Chand Nadaf

Jan 15, 2022
Yet another eye opening article from the visionary Sandeep. Waiting for the next one. All the best.

Deovrat Pagay

Jan 15, 2022
Biological Warfare is as old as the civilization. From Mustard gas in WW I, anthrax in WW II and now the Corona virus. The list is endless. The use of viruses and bacteria for making weaponized pathogens, DNA modifications could revive or start bio weapon programs. Coupled with robotics and AI, they pose a serious threat to mankind. Well written article!!

JS Kumar veteran

Jan 15, 2022
The Hallmark of article by Cdr. Dhawan, is , thought provoking on real crisis whole world is facing. Most hit are the least denominators. Just a matter of time before human stability at all strata of life is hit. Circumstantial evidence proves, it's man made- alacrity with which, an article in Lancet pointing the origins, was stone walled by Peter Daszack and party. Why would Gates talk of limiting population to 5 b instead of the present 7b? What a route this MERS/MERS/COV took over the last decade from Saudi, Canada, US to Wuhan & then spread to entire world. There is credibility on Chinese goods spreading virus all over , case in point is of Nanjangud with 8 cases in March 2020 when nowhere else COV reported, an obscure town near Mysore in Karnataka. (Refer Jubilant Generics, engaged in production and research of drugs and active pharmaceutical ingredients (API), has received consignments from COVID-affected countries, including China. So, Cdr Dhawan, kudos on an incisive article, which also has pointers for India to go Robotic, to neutralize future threats in this form of warfare , and also keep economy ticking against this evil & real man-made and present danger. Also put deterent innovative counter attacks in place Bravo Zulu Cdr.

Gaurav Chaturvedi

Jan 15, 2022
Anothrr gem from Cdr Sandeep.The scenario is like science fiction.Sadly not exactly so.The article is a must read not only by the security experts but the industrial and economic ldrs.

Sukhjit singh

Jan 15, 2022
We r always caught napping. Our politician cannot think beyond next election and babu's are not accountable. So why blame the poor worker only

Vijay Raj Manohar

Jan 15, 2022
Thanks so much for the insight sir.As usual,it is well supported by facts and figures to drive home the message.I am sure that,it is reaching the right places so that,we start working on the same.

Sandeep

Jan 15, 2022
Thanks for an interesting read. There is a view that CCP thrives on perpetual revolution. They took a break from 1978-2008. From 2012 Back again to what they are best at. ……Constant internal churns in political economy.(Which means almost everything) CCP calculation is that they are in primary stage of revolution and will take another 100 years more to reach their destination.

Renu

Jan 15, 2022
An informative article. Let's hope the powers that be realise the need of the hour and take necessary action.

Bob Sivaraman

Jan 15, 2022
Sandeep, yet another incisive and insightful article. The horrors of Sci-Fi of yesteryears is likely being actualized by the nations that care little about "others"! In India we need to pull ourselves up by our bootstraps to find our own answers to all these imminent threats, as no one else will do so for us. So many related fields to simultaneously focus on, so much long-term investment, so much immediate sacrifice called for, that it makes one flinch at the very thought. But flinch we must not. We need political leadership with the proverbial balls of brass (no gender specificity intended) and spines of steel to stand up against the external threats and internal insecurities and yet prevail. Technological answers to bio warfare threats need to go hand in hand with alternate channels of equitable economic growth, reasonable quality of life and social development for a better national outlook in the long-term. Your articles nicely draw attention to these requirements. They allow us to use the threats perceived from our neighborhood as temporal looking glasses, to figure out what we need to do, to assure ourselves a future.

Narinder Pal Singh Hora

Jan 15, 2022
This article paints a very grim and dangerous situation likely to unfold in this world. It's very unlikely that the countries involved in dangerous pathogen research will take a U- turn and desist from such research. Hence, it is important that our political masters wake up to this reality and undertake course correction. Thanks Sandeep for timely insight

Aninda Mukherjee

Jan 15, 2022
Excellent articulation of certain critical ideas. Food for thought.

Judithann Campbell

Jan 15, 2022
Very concerning! Thank you, Commander Dhawan, for another timely and informative article!

Arvind pande

Jan 15, 2022
Scary scenario. Rather than building nation to fight next level of threat it's very important to stop development of various viruses. Like no nuclear weapons world... thanks for the insight

Raman Gupta

Jan 15, 2022
A timely wake up call for our industrial policy. Perhaps, if China knows its rivals are as well equipped to keep production runner ng as itself, it will decide against another pandemic

Sid Gupta

Jan 15, 2022
As usual, very informative. Some core concerns are brought out. Hope relevant people are listening. All the very best.

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