China inside Nuclear Suppliers Group

nuclear power plant

The acceptance of China as a new Member of the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) is not just a propaganda tool for the media, but is of great importance and will affect positively overall global security.

As the People’s Republic of China (PRC) moves from a self–sufficient centralized planning system towards a market economy, including a process of integration with the global community and from military dominance to civilian control1, the entrance to the NSG is showing that China is taking steps to prove her credibility on Global Security issues.

Non-Proliferation Control Regimes (NPCRs)

As well as the NSG the PRC has also approached the organization of the Non-Proliferation Control Regimes (NPCRs), which aims to control conventional arms and Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD). The clear intention of China was to establish a common understanding to act as the base for further co-operation.

One of the tasks of the NPCRs is to issue ‘Control Lists’ with items that should be controlled to prevent proliferation. The Lists are updated every year in order to be current and to include new technologies and developments.

In the early nineties, the European Union (EU) took the decision to integrate the lists involving all dual use technologies issued by the NPCRs into one common list, called the ‘Integrated List’.

All controlled items are grouped in the EU list by specific categories2 as follows:

*Category - 0: Nuclear materials, facilities, equipment, etc.

*Category - 1: Advanced Materials, chemicals, microorganisms and toxins

*Category - 2: Material processing

*Category - 3: Electronics

*Category - 4: Computers

*Category - 5: Telecommunications – Information Security

*Category - 6: Sensors and Lasers

*Category - 7: Navigation and Avionics

*Category - 8: Marine

*Category - 9: Propulsion systems, space vehicles etc.

The structure of each category mentioned above, is the same throughout the list. There are five sub-categories, covering the ‘product group’. Each one covers a different utility aspect of every controlled item in the list, as follows:

*A – Systems, equipment and components

*B – Test, inspection and production equipment

*C – Materials

*D – Software

*E – Technology

Each entry is numbered by an identical number that indicates which NPCR controls this specific item:

*000 – 099 for Wassenaar Arrangement (WA) (conventional arms & advanced technology)

*100 – 199 for Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR)

*200 – 299 for Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG)

*300 – 399 for Australia Group (AG) (bio-chemical agents)

*400 – 499 for Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC)

*500 – 599 Reserved

*600 – 699 for unilateral control.

All member States of each Control Regime, update annually their National Legislation (related to export controls), in order to reflect unanimous decisions taken by the Plenary of each Regime.

China and Control Regimes

In the last few years, China has opened discussions with the NPCRs (including the AG on biological - chemical agents and WA on conventional arms and advanced technology), in an effort to collect comments, gain experience on export control legislation, as well as to fulfill criteria for candidacy, or at the very least achieve a common understanding with member states.

We should take under consideration that NPCRs are ‘Security and not Trade’ Regimes with the overall aim to improve Global Security and not to create any kind of trade distortion.

The US Minister of Economy, Mr John Snow announced on 08 July 20043: ‘China maybe attend G-8 meetings’. It will be in support of China’s participation in G-8 meetings, if she accepted as a member to NPCRs. Therefore it is clear why PRC submitted a request (candidate File) to the NSG in order to be accepted as a full member in this Regime.

Following negotiations at the fourteenth NSG Plenary Meeting that took place in Goteborg, Sweden on 27-28th of May, China was approved as a new member. The participation status in the Group ultimately took effect with an exchange of notes on 10 June 2004.4

From the Chinese side it is important that she should follow guidelines that have been put forward by the Control Regime specifically by adapting the National Legislation to include ‘Control Lists’ as well as other procedures that are common to NSG Member States. Furthermore she should share information on a regular basis with all Member States and of course issue ‘notifications’ on denials of trade.

Most important is that China should avoid ‘undercutting’. It means that she should not export to a third country items or technology already denied by any other Member State. Licensing and enforcing officers should follow common ‘general rules’ and exchange views with their counterparts at all levels of expertise. Industry’s responsibility on export controls should be improved by private companies even if this requires stricter governmental supervision. It is obviously a positive development that China has joined the NSG to prevent China from engaging in this practice, which it has faced accusations of in the past.

From the point of view of the other Member States of the NS with common training and decision making taking place at all levels and involving key countries such as China (political, diplomatic and expert), will enhance the solidarity and effectiveness of the Regime with positive export controls, which will ultimately positively influence global security.

In addition to this impact, overall common understanding will be improved and this will be an immediate benefit of the PRC’s acceptance as a full member to all NPCRs. It seems that this is also China’s wish in accordance with ‘China’s Non-Proliferation Policy and Measures’.5 The fact that NSG Plenary accepted China as new member means that all Members recognized PRC as having successfully met the current criteria for candidacy and gave her a ‘certification like passport’ for future membership in other Regimes.

In conclusion, PRC’s participation in all Control Regimes should herald a new era for global security. Furthermore with China moving into this position, it will be very difficult for the EU to maintain the 15 years old (27 June 1989) arms embargo.6

Ioannis Anastasakis

The author is a Colonel in the Greek Air Force, and is Expert Group Chairman of the Wassenaar arrangement.


(1) By Srikanth Kondapelli, ‘China in Search of Security: Implications to Asian Security’, RUSI Chinese Military Update, Vol 2 No 1, June 2004.

(2) EU Regulation 1334/2000.

(3) Newspaper Kathimerini, 10/07/2004.

(4) NSG Plenary, Press release: ‘The NSG – strengthening the nuclear non-proliferation regime’, 28 May 2004.

(5) White Paper on China’s Non-Proliferation Policy, issued 2003/12/03.

(6) By Ioannis Anastasakis, ‘EU Code of Conduct on arms exports and China’, RIEAS/ Forums/Asia, July 2004.

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