[Opinion] PLA’s Biowarfare Textbook Explained – Chapter 2

Author: Billwilliam Reviewer: Irene

Chapter 2: The Concept of Bioweapons

This article will summarize chapter 2 of the People’s Liberation Army biowarfare textbook “The Unnatural Origin of SARS-1 and the Man-made Human Virus as a Genetic Bioweapon“. This chapter is divided into two halves. The first half explains in detail the advantages of bioweapons, how to disseminate biological agents, the best weather conditions to disseminate, and how to aerosolize biological agents. The second half discusses international laws on bioweapon, its historical usage, and its purported current development by various countries. The PLA authors professed to write this textbook for countering bioterrorism, but the detailed descriptions of biowarfare tell a different story — they appear to be training their military cadets how to conduct biowarfare. Some of the biowarfare contents of this chapter are very disgusting or disturbing.

The characteristics of bioweapon

The first section (pages 50-51) describes the characteristics of bioweapon:

  1. Bioweapons are easily mass-produced. Most bacteria and virus agents can be produced by fermentation or cultivation. There are also well-established protocols for extracting bio-toxins.
  2. Different bioweapons have different lethality and different incubation period length. Bioweapons under a 10% mortality rate are called incapacitating agents, whereas those with a higher than 10% mortality rate are called lethal agents. A biological agent with a short incubation period is usually chosen for war purposes, but an agent with a long incubation period may be chosen for assassination or terrorist activities in times of peace.
  3. In a bioweapon aerosol, the ideal particle size is 1-5 microns in diameter. Very tiny particles can float in the air for long periods of time and reach deep into human lungs if inhaled.
  4. Bioweapons are easily disseminated by sprayers installed on airplanes, boats, or automobiles. Bioweapons should be released in dry weather so that the aerosol can travel long distances with the wind.
  5. A biological agent must remain stable during the processes of production, storage, and release. Anthrax spores, for example, can survive for at least 50 years.
  6. A country or group attacking with bioweapon must take precautions to protect its own soldiers.

The methods of delivery

The second section (pages 51-52) discusses the ways of delivery. Bioweapons can be disseminated by sprayers, explosive devices, contaminated food/water, and animal vectors. The most common method is aerosolization by sprayers, which can be installed at fixed point sources, on airplanes, or on vehicles. For example, 50kg of anthrax sprayed by airplane above a city of 500K population will result in 95K deaths and 125K people incapacitated, which means 40% of the population who come in contact with the aerosol will be infected. Terrorist groups or special forces may use other delivery methods such as needle injection or contaminated food/drinks. Another delivery method is through insect vectors. According to the textbook, aerosol followed human-to-human transmission is the most effective delivery method.

The pros of bioweapons

The third section boasts about the advantages of bioweapons. (pages 52-54)

  • Bioweapons can cause destruction over exceptionally large areas. The book said on page 52: “According to the assessment by a UN report ‘Chemical and biological weapons and their potential efficacy’, if a B-52 strategic bomber carries out hypothetical attacks with nuclear, chemical, or biological weapons against an unprotected population, this is the predicted area of destruction: a mega-ton nuclear weapon can destroy an area of 300 km2, 15000kg of nerve agent chemical weapon can destroy 60km2, and 10 tons of bioweapon has an effective destruction area of 100K km2, which is 300 times of nuclear weapon.” The original Chinese text is shown below.
  • Bioweapons can persist for a long time after delivery. Some pathogens can survive for weeks on metal or wood surfaces. Anthrax spores can last for decades.
  • Except for bio-toxins, most biological agents are infectious.
  • Bioweapons only attack humans, livestock, or agricultural crops, without damaging buildings, resources, or weapons in the target area. (page 53)
  • Bioweapon aerosols can penetrate bunkers, vehicles, vessels, or buildings that don’t have adequate air-filtering equipment.
  • Bioweapon is very stealthy — the aerosol is invisible and has no smell. The book boasted about the efficacy of bioweapon aerosol on page 53: “A normal person needs to breathe in 10 L of air per minute. So, even if the concentration of biological agent aerosol is very low in the air, a person may be infected after breathing the air for several minutes. The human alveoli have a total surface area of 100 m2, which is much larger than the surface area of the human body. Also, the wall of alveoli is only separated from capillaries by a 1-micron-thick cell bilayer, so aerosol particles in the alveoli can easily enter the bloodstream. Therefore, the dosage of biological aerosol needed to infect the respiratory system is much smaller than that required to infect the gastrointestinal tract.” The original Chinese text is shown below.    
  • Bioweapons can be easily mass-produced at a low cost. The book made this diabolical statement on page 53: “According to estimates by experts, the cost of bioweapon is 1/2000 of regular weapons, if calculated by the weapon’s cost per square kilometer in a massive attack against civilians.” The original Chinese text is shown below.
  • Bioweapons cause secondary disasters. For example, a sudden surge of patients during a bioweapon attack will cause the enemy’s medical system to collapse. Survivors or witnesses of the plague may also suffer from long-lasting psychological trauma. (page 54)
  • In addition, bioweapons are hard to detect. On page 55, the book stated: “The resultant infectious disease or poisoning is hard to distinguish from natural epidemics of similar types; it is difficult to detect biological agents in wartime; after dissemination, certain biological agents cause symptoms only after an incubation period, so collecting evidence is very difficult.” The original Chinese text is shown below.

How to unleash bioweapons

The fourth section (pages 54-55) discusses the optimal time, weather, and terrain for biowarfare — the diabolical book is essentially teaching how to release bioweapons.

  1. It is best to release a bioweapon when there is little air convection, which can dilute aerosols.
  2. A little bit of wind can help disseminate aerosols. The ideal wind speed is 3-6 m/s. Strong wind should be avoided because that will disperse the aerosol.
  3. A stable wind direction is desired so that the aerosol can float into the target area.
  4. Bioweapon attacks should be conducted during dawn, dusk, night, or cloudy weather because intense sunlight can damage the pathogens.
  5. Biological agents should be released during dry weather. Rain or snow can cause the aerosol particles to precipitate.
  6. Wind blowing over rough terrain may form air vortexes that affect the dispersal of aerosols. Biological aerosols tend to accumulate in low-lying areas, trenches, or valleys.      

Moreover, the book discusses modern delivery methods of bioweapon on page 59.

On the other hand, following the development in other scientific fields, there are major advances in the delivery of biological agents. For example, the freeze-drying technology of microorganisms made it possible to store biological agents and to aerosolize dry power during attacks.

Freeze drying is a technique to convert biological samples into dry power. The biological sample is usually preserved at low temperature by refrigeration, and then a vacuum is applied over the sample to remove moisture gradually until a dry powder is derived. A bioweapon in dry powder form (maybe virus or bacteria) is more tolerant to high temperatures. By analogy, dried beef jerky can be preserved for a longer time than raw beef. Perhaps to your dismay, freeze-drying is not a fancy space technology — it is widely used in biology labs to preserve samples. Communist China only abused a common lab technique for nefarious biowarfare purposes. During a bioweapon attack, the dry bioweapon powder can be aerosolized by sprayers.

Historical examples and international law

In the second half of the chapter, the authors discuss historical examples of biowarfare. For example, Germany might have used biological agents in the two World Wars. Imperial Japan’s Unit 731 might have researched and used biological agents in WWII.

The Biological Weapons Convention in 1972 prohibited the development, production, and stockpiling of bioweapons. The PLA textbook alleges that Russia, Israel, and the US are conducting secret offensive bioweapon research after 1972. Of course, the allegations cannot be verified. Communist China probably cites these falsified allegations to justify their own ongoing offensive bioweapon projects.


Some readers may want to ask whether the People’s Liberation Army has ever tried to aerosolize their most infamous bioweapon, COVID-19. This question is beyond the purview of my knowledge because I don’t have the intelligence on this topic. But to aerosolize COVID-19 (by freeze-drying and spraying) is technologically feasible. 

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