China Stresses Common Approach with Bush Administration's Nonproliferation Policy

By Kerr, Paul | Arms Control Today, January/February 2004 | Go to article overview

China Stresses Common Approach with Bush Administration's Nonproliferation Policy


Kerr, Paul, Arms Control Today


THE CHINESE GOVERNMENT recently issued a "White Paper" describing its nonproliferation policies that represents a rhetorical progression from ear lier Chinese statements. The paper stresses Chinese policies consistent with the U.S. nonproliferation approach and downplays differences between the two, placing special emphasis on export control policies designed to prevent the transfer of materials that can be used to develop weapons of mass destruction (WMD).

The paper, made public Dec. 3, portrays China as a country that takes its nonproliferation obligations seriously. It states, "[W]ith its strong sense of responsibility, China has...formulated a whole set of non-proliferation policies and put in place a fairly complete legal framework on non-proliferation and export control. It has taken positive and constructive measures to accelerate the international non-proliferation process with concrete actions."

According to the paper, these measures include adhering to a variety of international arms control agreements, including the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NFT), the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC), and the Biological Weapons Convention (BWC). China also agreed in November 2000 to act in accordance with guidelines set by the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR) and refrain from assisting states in developing ballistic missiles capable of delivering nuclear weapons, even though it is not a member of the MTCR.

The majority of the paper is devoted to a comprehensive, detailed description of China's export control "practices," which, the paper is careful to emphasize, are consistent with international norms. These include maintaining "control lists" of proliferation-sensitive exports, requiring licenses for such exports, demanding certification that end-users of exported items will not divert them to military purposes, and employing "catch-all" controls which require exporters to apply for export licenses if they "[know] or should know" that the exported item poses "a risk of proliferation." These controls "form a complete system for the export control of nuclear, biological, chemical, missile and...all military products," the paper adds.

Beijing has been strengthening its export controls during the past decade. For example, China published export control regulations for missiles and related components in August 2002 after agreeing to do so as part of its November 2000 pledge to limit further its missile exports. China also issued new export regulations for chemical and biological materials and related equipment in October 2002.

Washington continues to express concerns that China is not effectively enforcing its export laws. Department of State spokesman Adam Ereli stated Dec. 3 that the United States believes China has "enacted good legislation" but that U.S. "focus is on implementation and enforcement."

Although the paper states that Beijing's enforcement record has improved and cites instances where violators have been caught and punished, the United States remains skeptical.

A November CIA report acknowledged improvement in China's nonproliferation policies but cautioned that "proliferation behavior of Chinese companies remains of great concern. …

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China Stresses Common Approach with Bush Administration's Nonproliferation Policy
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