"I want to thank the Arms Control Association … for being such effective advocates for sensible policies to stem the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, and most importantly, reduce the risk of nuclear war."

– Joseph Biden, Jr.
January 28, 2004
China Issues Missile Export Controls

September 2002

By Rose Gordon

The long-awaited missile export controls that Beijing committed to publishing almost two years ago were released by China’s official Xinhua News Agency on August 25.

Following months of nonproliferation talks with the United States, China had agreed on November 21, 2000, not to help states develop “ballistic missiles that can be used to deliver nuclear weapons.” It defined such missiles as those capable of carrying a 500-kilogram payload at least 300 kilometers, guidelines that mirror those in the Missile Technology Control Regime, of which China is not a member. To make its pledge more concrete, China said it would issue “at an early date” a “comprehensive” list of missile-related and dual-use items whose export would require a government license.

As of August, however, China had still not issued the export control list despite repeated requests from Washington to do so. In fact, the United States maintained that China was continuing to export missile components and technology in direct violation of the November 2000 agreement. In a July 2002 report to Congress, the U.S.-China Security Review Commission cited China as “a leading international source of missile-related technologies” and warned of its proliferation activities with “terrorist-sponsoring and other states…particularly in the Middle East and Asia.”

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Kong Quan, who in July dismissed U.S. reports on the threat of Chinese missile and weapons of mass destruction proliferation as groundless, said August 25 that China has always been committed to responsible export control and “will continue to take an active part in the international cooperation in nonproliferation.”

The controls came in the form of a 24-article regulation requiring entities to obtain a government license before exporting ballistic and cruise missiles, rockets, and unmanned air vehicles, and related delivery systems and technologies that are listed on a “control list,” which Beijing also released. In addition, the receiving party must guarantee that the transferred items will not be used in any manner other than that declared to the Chinese government.

State Department spokesman Richard Boucher called the new controls a “potentially important step” but added that “the real measure of China’s control over missile-related exports will be the effectiveness with which controls like these are enforced and a real reduction in problematic exports by Chinese entities.”

The Xinhua News Agency reported that Premier Zhu Rongji signed the regulations into effect August 22, three days before the arrival of Richard Armitage, U.S. deputy secretary of state, in Beijing. Armitage’s discussions with top Chinese officials included preparations for President Jiang Zemin’s visit to the United States in October to meet with President Bush.