China and the CTBT Negotiations

This report reviews Chinese participation in the international negotiations for a Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) at the Conference on Disarmament (CD) in Geneva and provides background for China’s decision-making procedures during the negotiations.

The CTBT negotiations marked the first important international negotiations for a multilateral disarmament treaty in which China participated from beginning to end. They were the first important international negotiations in which China, as a nuclear power, had great influence. The Chinese delegation to the CD assumed a serious and responsible attitude during the entire course of the negotiations. In part to increase international confidence that it would sign the CTBT by 1996 as scheduled and in part to indicate its intent to adapt itself to the world trend toward increased international cooperation and nuclear arms reduction, China announced during the latter stage of the negotiations that it would suspend nuclear testing.

As an example of successful multilateral negotiations, the conclusion and signing of the treaty, although long postponed, is an important achievement in arms control. As the sole declared nuclear-weapon state of the Third World at that time and the last among the five nuclear-weapon states (P5) to cease nuclear testing, China’s stance toward the CTBT negotiations was the object of world attention and concern. The population of China accounts for nearly one-quarter of the world’s total; China’s positive position on the CTBT and its contributions toward this end has a major worldwide impact now and in the future.

Prior to the commencement of the CTBT negotiations in Geneva, China declared on October 5, 1993, that while supporting an early conclusion of the treaty it would “take an active part in the negotiating process and work together with other countries to conclude this treaty no later than 1996.” China kept its promise.

China pursued a fair, reasonable, and verifiable treaty with universal adherence and unlimited duration. During the negotiations, China presented many working papers, non-papers, and suggestions regarding the CTBT draft text (including a number of revisions), and dealt with a series of critical issues in the Preamble, Basic Obligations, Organization, Verification, and Entry into Force sections of the treaty. The Chinese delegation played an active role at the conference table, and contributed positively to the weekly P5 consultations that ran in parallel with the CTBT talks.

China adhered toughly to its positions on two issues in the latter stage of the CTBT negotiations. One concerned potential abuses of the on-site inspection procedures. The other was that all nuclear-test-capable states (assumed to be the P5, India, Israel, and Pakistan) must accede to the treaty in order for it to enter into full legal force. Although China was not entirely satisfied with the final draft CTBT, it accepted the treaty. It agreed to sign the CTBT in the belief that the treaty text represented the best achievable result of the negotiations of the preceding two and a half years, reflected by and large the state of the negotiations, and was in general balanced.

Signing the CTBT was in line with China’s consistent stand in support of “the complete prohibition and thorough destruction of nuclear weapons.” This was one of the major reasons China supported an early conclusion of the treaty. Of course, China’s desire to meet the trend of the modern world also motivated it to sign. Because economic development had long been Beijing’s top priority, China needed a peaceful security environment in order to devote itself completely to the modernization of the nation. To this end, its defense buildup had been steadily subordinated to national economic development. Beijing’s decision on the CTBT negotiations stemmed also from its self-defense and no-first-use nuclear policies. China had established an effective nuclear force for self-defense.

China is now making preparations for the treaty to enter into force. After the conclusion of the CTBT, China will continue efforts in pursuit of world peace, development, and cooperation. Meanwhile, China will continuously ensure the safety and reliability of its nuclear weapons without nuclear testing.