Disarmament and China’s Nuclear Madness

by Nichole Ballawar - 2 August, 2021, 12:00 1944 Views 0 Comment

A celebration of Chinese nuclear missile tests in Tiananmen Square in Beijing in 1966.


The bible suggests that those who live by the sword tend to die by the sword. These connotations are very much relevant in today’s world where conflicts, arms race and arms trade are characterised. Similarly, George Bernard Shaw advised the world to use nitrogen judiciously to manufacture fertiliser rather than explosives.

The arms race is a source of potential war and perpetual danger to world peace. It not only diverts the scarce resources of the country but also encourages potential rivals to adopt vertical proliferation. And therefore, economic and social welfare takes a back seat. Hence, disarmament comes into play, likewise, it is considered to be the most pertinent measure to maintain peace and check war. Through disarmament, humans can attain better security, the standard of living and quick development.

History of Disarmament

The history of disarmament dates back to 1139 when the second Lateran Council disallowed the use of cross bows in fighting. It was in the late nineteenth century that the first endeavour towards disarmament was made in the Hague conference (1899) for arms control. This conference outlawed certain weapons expanding to dumdum bullets. Also, the Hague conference (1907) prohibited projectiles from balloon. Similarly, at the Washington Naval conference US, Japan, Italy and France adjusted their own tonnage of fleets. But many conferences like World Disarmament Conference (1922) and the Washington Conference (1932) failed to bear the fruit and were unsuccessful.

During the Second World War, a variety of arms-control proposals were put forth. The Baruch Plan (1946) suggested the setting up of the United Nations Atomic Development Authority which would have put nuclear energy under international control. Also, the Gromyko Plan was opposed to the Baruch plan and it could not be appealed to the west. Similarly, the Rapacki plan, Open skies proposal (1955) failed to culminate desired results. Even the informal Pugwash conferences by the American and Russian scientists failed to achieve the results. This shows that post-war efforts have not been without their success but attempts to control the development of nuclear weapons.

Various multilateral agreements since World War II towards arms control and disarmament have been proposed for instance Treaty demilitarising Antarctica (1959), Partial test ban treaty (1963), Outer space treaty (1967), Treaty of Tlatelolco (1967), prohibiting nuclear weapons in Latin America, Nuclear Non-proliferation treaty (1968), Chemical weapons convention and Comprehensive test ban treaty (1996) are the various agreements towards disarmament.

China’s Nuclear Madness

The People’s Republic of China is a nuclear state since 1964, Project 596, was the first nuclear weapon test conducted by the state. The Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs mentions that it “actively promotes the international process of disarmament to safeguard world peace and security”. It also says that PRC opposes armed race and calls for the complete prohibition and thorough destruction of nuclear weapons, chemical weapons and biological weapons and the drastic reduction of conventional armament.

China’s NE in 1964

Lately, the USA’s Executive committee on findings on adherence to compliance report with Arms Control, Non-Proliferation and Disarmament, Agreements and Commitment 2020 has accused China of violating the norms of Comprehensive Test-Ban-Treaty (CTBT) by conducting a low yield nuclear test in 2019 at its Lop Nur testing site. The US also claims that China has violated the “zero yield “standard raising the risk of nuclear dangers.

Therefore, parlance and practice are the two different aspects in China’s nuclear umbrella. Also, in April 2021, it has also been noted that China has docked its ship in Srilanka’s Hambanaotota which had uranium hexafluoride. Srilankan port authorities instantly ask the Chinese ship to leave the port.  China has a history of fuelling horizontal proliferation, in 2009, China has gifted 50 kg of uranium to Pakistan for making two bombs.

China allows no such transparency for the world’s fastest-growing nuclear arsenal. Beijing refuses to disclose how many nuclear weapons it has, how many it plans to develop, or what it plans to do with them. It is the least transparent of the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council. China is pursuing a nuclear triad on land, in the air and at sea, and that it is rapidly growing and modernizing its capabilities. General Secretary Xi Jinping champions this build-up. Soon after taking office in 2012, he described China’s nuclear-weapons command as “support for China’s status as a great power.” He subsequently elevated that command to a standalone service called the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Rocket Force as a part of his plan to build a “world-class” military by 2049.


It could be well gauged that China’s ambitions are aligned to her greatest goal to make the nation great again with pioneering effect till 2049. Chinese strategic community thinks that USA is a receding power and China a revisionist one, but what of a responsible power?  It is said great positions come with great responsibilities. A reckless power could injure those at proximity.  With Chinas incautious act during the Covid-19 pandemic and the aggressive strongman polity at the mainland making the entire world status-conscious about her rise.

In the 2019 military parade The People’s Liberation Army (PLA) in Beijing featured nuclear-capable missiles. The display stretched nearly 3 miles—almost 10 times longer than the same segment a decade ago, and certainly only a fraction of the total arsenal. The parade also showcased the Dongfeng-41 missile, which could strike America’s shores in 30 minutes. It is also reported by the US department of state that China will deploy those missiles in silos and on mobile platforms in the near future, and if current trends hold—China will at least double its total nuclear arsenal in the next decade.

On the contrary, a rising economic powerhouse and a democratic polity like India have earned herself many accolades. Being, the responsible nuclear state since 1998, India, pushes for complete nuclear disarmament. In 1998, at United Nations General Assembly Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi had proposed a world free of nuclear weapons could be achieved through an ‘Action Plan for Ushering in a Nuclear-Weapon Free and Non-Violent World Order.’ Rajiv Gandhi had termed nuclear deterrence to be the “ultimate expression of the philosophy of terrorism, holding humanity hostage to the presumed security needs of a few.” He proposed a three-stage process of total disarmament with the accent on a regime that was global, universal and non-discriminatory.

Let history not teach us wrong lessons. During the cold war, US and Soviets were at each other’s throats but they have recognized that long ago those great powers must behave responsibly with the world’s most dangerous weapons. So, too must by China who claims to be a great nation today.

Nichole Ballawar
Author is a Senior Visiting Faculty member at Nagpur's Government Law College. He has also served as a Research Associate at the Centre for Air Power Studies (CAPS) as a Defence Analyst for Janes. He has also worked as a China Research Assistant for the Ministry of External Affairs and as an Intern for the United Nations Development Program. He collaborated with organizations such as NIICE, The Diplomatist, and 9dashline, among others, and produced a number of research publications. He has written several essays on China, nuclear nonproliferation, and arms control.

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