International Affairs
Congressional Newsletter
Monthly updates to Congress on RAND's work in international affairs

China's Export Controls for WMD-Related Goods and Technologies

Chasing the Dragon The United States and the international community have long been concerned about China's ability to control exports of sensitive goods and technologies used in the production of weapons of mass destruction (WMD). In the 1980s and 1990s, China possessed a highly underdeveloped and ineffective system of administrative export controls over nuclear weapon–related and ballistic missile–related equipment and technologies. These weaknesses contributed to transfers of WMD-related equipment and technology from China to the Middle East and South Asia. In recent years, however, China has developed a comprehensive collection of laws, regulations, and measures outlining government procedures for vetting pending exports of sensitive nuclear, chemical, missile, and conventional military goods and related technologies. While these efforts serve as an indicator that China is acting like a responsible major power in global affairs, China's inability to consistently and effectively implement and enforce these new controls is a persistent and glaring weakness of its current system.

A newly released RAND report, Chasing the Dragon: Assessing China's System of Export Controls for WMD-Related Goods and Technologies, examines the structure and operation of China's evolving system of export controls on sensitive WMD goods and technologies. It identifies the key organizations involved in export control decisionmaking, the laws and regulations that form the basis of the government's system of controls, and the interactions among government organizations concerned with vetting sensitive exports. The report concludes with an assessment of the strengths and weaknesses of this system's ability to implement and enforce government export controls, and highlights areas that deserve more attention from Chinese policymakers.

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China's Military Modernization

Modernizing China's Military Over the past three decades, the Chinese leadership has liberalized its economic policies, a process that has resulted in significant rates of economic growth and the modernization of the Chinese economy. This rapid development has led to the emergence of China as an economic and political power while dramatically increasing the resources it has available to fund a robust military modernization program. With recent double-digit percentage increases reported in official Chinese defense budgets, U.S. policymakers have become concerned about China's potential to mount a serious military challenge to the United States in Asia sometime within the next two decades.

A recent RAND report, Modernizing China's Military: Opportunities and Constraints, assesses China's potential military expenditures through 2025. It concludes that China will have the economic and technological wherewithal to increase its military capabilities substantially in the next two decades. It projects annual military spending at the equivalent of $185 billion (in 2001 dollars) in 2025 if (1) China's economy continues to grow; (2) the Chinese government sustains military spending at about 2.2 percent of GDP, despite competing pressures for higher expenditures on pensions, health care, and education; and (3) recent improvements in China's defense industry continue, resulting in the ability of the industry to produce the sophisticated weaponry needed to challenge U.S. forces. The report also provides a set of key indicators that analysts can use to help determine trends that might herald substantial changes in resources allocated for Chinese defense spending.

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Read the Research Brief >

China's Burgeoning Social Unrest

Chinese civil unrest photo by Jeffery Aaronson Does China possess the same stringent control over public protest that it had a decade earlier? According to official police statistics, the answer is a resounding no. Recently uncovered police data indicate that social unrest in China has been increasing precipitously, with mass protests rising from 8,700 in 1993 to more than 58,000 in 2003. But while such protests—sit-ins, strikes, group petitions, rallies, demonstrations, marches, riots, and inter-ethnic strife—indicate citizen dissatisfaction and the willingness to express grievances through collective movements, do these actions pose a threat to the survival of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP)?

This RAND testimony, presented before the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission, looks to help answer this question by examining the rise of social unrest in China, its sources and changing forms, and the sharp dilemmas CCP leaders and security officials are facing as they search for an effective strategy to cope with this burgeoning challenge. The testimony analyzes the new strategies Chinese security forces are implementing to control unrest with minimal violence and also provides brief commentary on the dangerous game the CCP is playing, given its tacit support for anti-Japanese demonstrations earlier this year.

Read the Testimony >


Since the early 1980s, a consistent conclusion of Western research on China's defense-industrial complex has been that it is rife with weaknesses and limitations.

A forthcoming RAND report, A New Direction for China's Defense Industry, calls this conventional wisdom into question and argues that research should begin to focus on the gradual improvements in and the future potential of China's defense industrial complex in order to better assess the modernization of China's military capabilities. The study investigates overall institutional changes in the structure and operation of four defense-industry related sectors: missiles, shipbuilding, military aviation, and information technology/defense electronics. It concludes that China's defense-industrial sectors are producing a wide range of increasingly advanced weapons that will enhance, in the short term, China's military capabilities in a possible conflict over Taiwan and, in the long term, the position of China's military in Asian security dynamics.



International Affairs Research Area

Hot Topic: China

RAND Center for Asia Pacific Policy



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