China’s Nuclear Policy

15 Mar, 1998    ·   68

Report on a Presentation by Sha Zukang Director General Disarmament-PRC

Mr Sha Zukang, former Chinese Disarmament Ambassador at Geneva , and currently the Director General of the Disarmament Division in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs made a presentation on a "Chinese View on Nuclear Weapons Elimination". According to him nuclear weapons were a reality in today’s world. Strategies based on nuclear weapons were still with us. Countries still believed in the first use of nuclear weapons. Nuclear weapons were introduced in the Cold War. To remove nuclear weapons, it was necessary then to remove the possibilities of hot war. It was also vital to prevent recurrence of Cold War.



The late Deng Xiaoping had said in 1985, that a world war was not likely in the near future. Based on this assessment he reduced the PLA by a million soldiers. Another half a million soldiers were reduced later. Once again the Secretary General has announced a further reduction in the PLA of half a million. According to Mr Sha a major war was unlikely for the next 20-25 years.



The Cold War was indeed over, but Cold War mentality stubbornly persists. Till it was there deterrent mentality will also remain. The Chinese Foreign Minister had said that nuclear weapons will be eliminated in the 21st Century. It will be a slow process - a long process. It is not possible to say when in the 21st Century it will be possible to eliminate it. We will need to work towards it. For this it was necessary that all nuclear weapon powers declare firmly and without reservation that they were against nuclear weapons.



What should we do? He recommended the following measures:-



·                     Reduce reliance on nuclear deterrence theory.




·                     Reach agreement on no first-use. There were no reasons why all nuclear weapon powers could not do it.




·                     Nuclear weapon free zones (NWFZ) were expanding. This needs to be encouraged as an intermediate step. China was aware of its limitations, but we still need to encourage it. Nuclear weapon powers should also sign the protocols of the NWFZs.




·                     Nuclear weapons deployed on land outside national territory should be withdrawn.




·                     All pursuit of Star Wars and anti-ballistic defence systems should be given up.




·                     Finally, space must not be weaponised.




Mr Sha said that non nuclear powers were not expected to do anything more after the extension of the NPT in perpetuity. It was now upto the nuclear weapon powers to take necessary actions to keep their part of the bargain regarding nuclear weapon elimination.



What should the countries and especially nuclear weapon powers do? They should:-



·                     Adopt a universal non-discriminatory system.




·                     Accept universal treaties like the CTBT.




·                     Not allow excessive defence equipment. Though there can be no agreement on what was excessive, it needed to be worked upon. It was a matter of definition for each country.




·                     Expansion of military blocs should stop.




·                     Globalisation was good for this purpose.




Mr Sha responded to some questions later. He opined that the NPT was designed to prevent China from acquiring nuclear weapons. China did not accept the NPT originally and signed it only in Jan 1993 after 23 years. Therefore, China did not want to insist that others sign this treaty. Chinese and Indian policies on nuclear weapons were similar in every way except that China had crossed the threshold ten years earlier. This was in response to the serious treat that China itself had faced in the years before.