RAND Study Says China Fails to Adequately Control Wmd Exports

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September 26, 2005

China continues to lack the resources to fully and adequately implement its numerous laws and regulations designed to control exports of sensitive goods and technologies that could be used to help create chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear weapons, according to a RAND Corporation study issued today.

While China has made much progress, it needs to do more to enforce its own controls on exports that could help other nations or organizations develop weapons of mass destruction, the report says.

The controls were adopted gradually over the last several years as Chinese leaders recognized the importance of WMD nonproliferation to global security.

“In the past five years, China has erected a structure that has a strong legal basis to control exports of goods that can be used for making weapons of mass destruction, but it hasn't devoted the necessary financial or political resources to make these controls effective,” said Evan Medeiros, the RAND researcher who conducted the study. “This is a persistent and glaring weakness.”

The study says China should do more to strengthen its anti-proliferation efforts if it wants to show itself to be a “responsible major power” that is engaged in a “peaceful rise.”

The Chinese government has made public only two cases of export control violations where penalties were assessed, the report says. As a result, the study says there is minimal incentive for Chinese companies to comply with the laws controlling WMD exports and to eventually police themselves.

The report by the RAND National Security Research Division is titled “Chasing the Dragon: Assessing China's System of Export Controls for WMD-related Goods and Technologies.” The division undertakes research on U.S. national security issues for the Department of Defense and the intelligence community.

The study also says:

  • Foreign agents and enterprises operating in China have already taken advantage of China's weak regulatory environment to illicitly procure controlled items for their national WMD-related development programs.
  • As a result of China's membership in the World Trade Organization, foreign involvement in China's domestic nuclear, aerospace and chemical industries will grow and could become a matter of concern for China's export control system.
  • China's current anti-proliferation mechanisms are largely reactive and based primarily on reports and tips from Western intelligence officials about pending exports of controlled goods and technologies.
  • Chinese Ministry of Commerce officials appear to be unwilling to pursue investigations of alleged wrongdoing against large and influential Chinese state-owned enterprises with strong political connections.

Printed copies of “Chasing the Dragon: Assessing China's System of Export Controls for WMD-Related Goods and Technologies,” (ISBN: 0-8330-3805-2) can be ordered from RAND's Distribution Services (order@rand.org or call toll-free in the United States 1-877-584-8642).

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