Oral Presentation Australasian Association of Bioethics & Health Law and New Zealand Bioethics Conference

From Eugenics to Human Gene Editing: Ideology and Engineering Life in China in a Global Context (1086)

Jing-Bao Nie 1
  1. University of Otago, Dunedin, OTAGO, New Zealand

Gene editing technologies such as CRISPR-Cas9 (invented in 2013) have the capacity to alter the world forever through altering the genetic make-up of humankind. The announcement by a Chinese scientist in late November 2018 of the birth of the world’s first gene-edited babies sparked outrage across the world. Among numerous ethical issues, editing heritable germline genomes of otherwise healthy embryos for natural resistance to HIV constitutes an effort of positive eugenics, i.e. not treating disease but enhancing genetic features. This paradigm case of scientific misconduct has its roots in the widespread practice of yousheng (eugenics) in China and in the nation’s pursuit of science superpower status. Eugenics has long been a global phenomenon, and the engineering and instrumentalising of human life is a fundamental feature of global modernity. This presentation will offer a socio-ethical inquiry into how the ideologies of sinicised social Darwinism, nationalism and scientism have shaped the Chinese authoritarian model of human genetic engineering in a global context.