China Enters the Nuclear Suppliers Group: Positive Steps in the Global Campaign against Nuclear Weapons Proliferation

China Enters the Nuclear Suppliers Group: Positive Steps in the Global Campaign against Nuclear Weapons Proliferation

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Sean Lucas

The James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies


At the 14th Plenary meeting of the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG)[1] held in May 2004, the People's Republic of China was approved as a participating government in the export control group.[2] China's addition is a positive step for the NSG in its endeavors to halt the proliferation of nuclear weapons technology. With China now a member, all five nuclear weapon states can fully coordinate their export control policies with other NSG members. The move follows a series of progressive steps by Beijing to enhance China's nonproliferation policy and create new partnerships with other Asian countries in order to meet the contemporary challenges to international security.

China's Improved Export Control Policy

As part of its export control policy, China aims to strike a balance between its nonproliferation objectives and its efforts to provide the developing world with access to emergent nuclear technologies for peaceful purposes. China introduced its reformulated nonproliferation policies, measures, and practices in a December 2003 white paper titled, "China's Non-proliferation Policy and Measures." In this policy paper, the Chinese government describes itself as an economic and political power representing the interest of the developing world.[3] Beijing believes it is important to guarantee the right of developing nations, as well as that of all countries, to explore the peaceful use of nuclear energy.[3] China's stance on nonproliferation was also described in another policy paper titled, "China's National Defense in 2002." The paper described how access to nuclear technologies for peaceful purposes is part of the three principles governing China's nuclear exports. These principles state that a client must: (1) guarantee any technology transferred from China must be intended for peaceful purposes only, (2) accept International Atomic Energy Agency safeguards and, (3) agree not to re-transfer technology to a third party without China's approval.[4]

The Chinese government has acknowledged it must take the steps necessary to ensure that nuclear and dual-use technology supplied to client states is not used in an illicit manner.[3] In the aforementioned white paper, China discussed the challenges of relying on administrative measures to regulate export controls in an economy that has become more open. To meet these challenges, Beijing has made the commitment to switch from an administrative system of export control policy to a law-based system.[3] According to the Chinese Foreign Ministry's Ms. Zhang Qiyue,[5] Beijing has adopted a series of measures to strengthen its export control mechanism. The measures include more comprehensive regulations on export control and an improved legal system for nonproliferation export control.[6]

Outreach Efforts to Develop Partnerships on International Security

China has made a strong commitment to engage in dialogue and cooperation in the area of international security with members of the Asia-Pacific community. Beijing believes security dilemmas affecting the region will best be overcome through multilateral efforts. To this end, China has strengthened its relationship with neighboring countries through participation in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, the Council on Security Cooperation in the Asia-Pacific Region, and the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO). As a member in these organizations, China assisted in the development of policies, practices, and protocols for combating the spread of weapons of mass destruction and creating a new security concept in the region.[4] In the SCO, China participated in drafting the Shanghai Convention on Combating Terrorism, Separatism and Extremism and the Agreement on a Regional Anti-Terrorist Agency.[4] China has also developed a strong relationship with countries in the developing world through its participation in the Non-Aligned Movement as a recognized observer.

China's admission to the NSG demonstrates the country's willingness to take the steps necessary for combating nuclear weapons proliferation. Participation in the group provides a forum in which Beijing can put its updated nonproliferation and export control policies into practice. Also, China can utilize its newly established partnerships to improve upon the export control regime for nuclear and dual-use technology transfers.




[1] The Nuclear Suppliers Group is a voluntary association of nuclear supplier countries that seeks to contribute to the nonproliferation of nuclear weapons. The group does this through the implementation of guidelines for nuclear and dual-use exports. The export control organization has 44 members.
[2] Nuclear Suppliers Group, Press Release, May 28, 2004, "The NSG – Strengthening the Nuclear Non-proliferation Regime,"
[3] Information Office of the State Council, "China's Non-proliferation Policy and Measures," Arms Control Today, December 3, 2003,
[4] Information Office of the State Council, "China's National Defense in 2002," White Paper, December 9, 2002,
[5] Spokesperson for the Chinese Foreign Ministry.
[6] Permanent Mission of the People's Republic of China to the United Nations, Press Conference, February 12, 2004,

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