Trip Report - China
12-18 October, 2004
From: Dave Webb
From 12-15th October I was in Nanjing attending the 9th PIIC Beijing Seminar on International Security. I was attending this seminar with my University colleague Steve Wright, we were representing the Praxis Centre for the “Study of Information and technology for Peace, Conflict Resolution and Human Rights” at Leeds Metropolitan University.
Nanjing, in the eastern part of China, is the capital of Jiangsu Province and lies on the vast plain of the lower reaches of the Yangtse River. Nanjing has jurisdiction over 10 districts and 5 counties, covering an area of 6,516 square kilometres with a population of some 5,200,000. It has a long history, being around 2500 years old and the capital of ten dynasties in the past.
PIIC is an abbreviation of the initials of the organiser - the Program for Science and National Security Studies (PSNSS) - and three sponsors - Institute of Applied Physics and Computational Mathematics (IAPCM), China; The International School on Disarmament and Research on Conflicts (ISODARCO), Italy; and the Chinese Institute of Contemporary International Relations (CICIS). Eight previous seminars have been held under the name of ISODARCO Beijing Seminar on Arms Control every two years since 1988. These have been attended by an international group of natural and social scientists with a focus on a scientific view of international security issues and to work towards a better understanding of the cultural differences and various viewpoints of people from around the world.
The main topics of this year's seminar included:
The delegates were from universities, NGOs, government and state departments and institutions with an interest in technical developments in these areas (such as Lawrence Livermore Lab and the Rand Corporation).
The conference was opened by the chairperson Li Hua of IAPCM and included speeches and opening remarks by Academician Hu Side from the Chinese Academy of Engineering Physics (CAEP), Professor Carlo Schaerf from ISODARCO, Professor Wang Zaibang from CACIR and Hong Yinxing, President of Nanjing University.
The conference schedule can be seen at http://www.armscontrolwonk.com/ISODARCO_Schedule.pdf
There were a number of very interesting presentations and it was possible to meet with a number of the delegates. The importance of the NPT Review Conference next year was widely recognised and there were a number of papers and wide discussion on Nuclear Nonproliferation issues.
Missile Defence and the Weaponisation of Space issues were mentioned a number of times and widely considered to be of considerable importance in terms of international security. Among the presentations specifically on space issues were:
Ramazan Daurov, Deputy Director of the International Centre for Strategic and Political Studies in Moscow presented a paper on “Strategic Stability and World Security: NW, BMD, Outer Space Weaponisation” and emphasised the dangers of the current US policy on missile defence and the weaponisation of space.
Dr David Wright from the Union of Concerned Scientists spoke on “Technical Aspects of Space Security” and demonstrated that some of the concepts being pushed forward by the US Space Command and others were totally impractical. For example in order for the proposed space plane to carry out some of its suggested manoeuvres, based on current technology, it would need to carry a prohibitive amount of fuel. This talk illustrated that many of the plans of the space military are ill-conceived and have not been properly refereed by independent scientists before they get to the stage where funding is sought.
I presented a paper on “Missile Defence – the First Steps Towards War in Space?” which argued that various components of missile defence can be also deployed for anti-satellite use and that this was the most likely reason why missile defence was being developed so rapidly. Among the questions in response to the paper where such as “if as you say everyone knows that missile defence won’t work – why do you say that countries like China will be forced to respond by increasing their nuclear arsenals?” I responded by emphasising that politicians don’t always deal with facts but with perceptions – that is what has fuelled arms races in the past and will continue to do so in the future, unless we can change things.
A presentation by Gregory Kulacki from the Global Security Program of the Union of Concerned Scientists entitled “A Great Wall of Misunderstanding: Dysfunctional Dialogues in US-China Security Relations” included a report on how the Pentagon's 2002 and 2003 Annual Reports on the Military Power of the People's Republic of China cited a January 2001 Hong Kong newspaper article claiming that China had developed and tested an advanced anti-satellite (ASAT) system - described as a "parasitic microsatellite" that attaches itself to a larger satellite in order to disrupt or destroy it. The existence of such a system is clearly an important issue to the U.S. military and the Congress. Keyword searches on several large Chinese-language search engines enabled the UCS researchers to trace the "parasite satellite" tale to an October 2000 story on a Chinese Web site specializing in military affairs. That story was written by Hong Chaofei, a self-described "military enthusiast", who runs a Chinese-language Internet bulletin board filled with fanciful stories about 'secret' Chinese weapons to be used against Americans in a future war over Taiwan. The poor quality of his technical descriptions, his use of extremely provocative language and the nature of the other materials on his Web site call into question his credibility. An article on this appeared in the Washington Post on 14 August (see: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A63706-2004Aug13.html).
Jeffrey Lewis from the Centre for International and Security Studies at Maryland gave an interesting presentation on “Space Weaponisation Spending in FY2005 Defense Budget”. He was able to show how a number of projects for which funding had been requested had been cut back. For instance the Common Aero Vehicle from DARPA had its budget cut by a half to $12.5m with a proviso that weapons related work should not be engaged in. The controversial Near Field Infra Red Experiment (NFIRE) of the MDA may have been cut altogether (the exact status of the funding decision is not clear, but it does seem that the inclusion of a kill vehicle in the experiment - the source of the contention – has been withdrawn. Other space programs suffered funding cuts from appropriators including the Space Based Radar (SBR), Transformational SATCOM (T-SAT) and Counter Surveillance Reconnaissance System (CSRS) programs.
This reminded me of a recent (5 August) article in Aerospace Daily & Defense Report (see: www.cndyorks.gn.apc.org/yspace/articles/space_weapons_case_needed.htm) quotes a senior scientist at SAIC as saying that these cuts are:
"largely due to the concern over the proper use of force in space and the vocal anti-space weapons community." "To their credit, they have been on the field. The people who are advocates of the funding for these particular programs ... haven't well engaged in that debate.”
Peter Huessy of the National Defense University Foundation was also quoted as saying that the anti-space weapons lobby has been effective in part because of its significant financial backing. The lobby is "being led, unfortunately, by not just the traditional arms control community, but about $100 million a year from foundations," according to Huessy. "And that kind of money is so far and beyond anything being spent by the proponents.”
Of course, this is actually just a case of arguing for more funding for lobbying and no doubt that will happen.
On the last day Duan Zhanyuan from the China Astronautic Institute presented a paper on “Preventing Outer Space Weaponisation: Prospect & Challenge” which was a very useful summary of the current situation.
Despite the somewhat gloomy nature of many of the presentations (especially those on the possible acquisition and use of nuclear materials by terrorists) the conference was quite up beat and sometimes very positive. I enjoyed it and it was a great opportunity to talk to so many interesting people.
Chinese People’s Association for Peace and Disarmament
On my way back I stopped in Beijing for a few days to visit some Universities – but I also visited the Chinese People’s Association for Peace and Disarmament (CPAPD) on behalf of CND and the Global Network. The CPAPD is a nation-wide (Governmental) NGO with 24 affiliated member organizations. It was founded in June 1985 by several mass organizations and by prominent public figures from all sectors in China and in 1986 was given the title of Peace Messenger by the United Nations for its efforts in the Chinese Organizing Committee for the International Year of Peace. The Association “works for the promotion of mutual understanding, friendship and cooperation between the Chinese people and peoples of the world. It aims to safeguard world peace, strives for disarmament and prevention of a new world war”. In addition the CPAPD works to protect the natural environment promote economic development and advance social progress.
Here I met with the Secretary General Niu Qiang and Chen Huaifan, the General Office Director. Although the CPAPD may not be strictly an NGO I thought we had much in common. Their concern for peaceful resolutions of international problems was, I think, quite genuine. Of course China is a nuclear weapons state and we would very much like it to relinquish its nuclear weapons, but there appears to be a great measure of mistrust when it comes to dealings with the US in particular.
I presented them with a Keep Space for Peace poster and details of the Global Network and our work. I also gave them a CND “No Star Wars” T-shirt and details of our campaign against missile defence and the weaponisation of space and copies of the materials we have produced. They wanted to hear more about our protest against the Iraq war and its possible effects on our governments.
China’s fast expanding economy and construction program means that the consumption of energy is increasing rapidly. Unfortunately it looks as if the Chinese government is considering embarking on a possible widespread program of nuclear power. I emphasised that we believe that there is a strong association between nuclear power and nuclear weapons and there are many problems with dealing with waste and reprocessing. Some of these issues seemed new to the CPAPD and they were interested in the arguments.
Over dinner we talked of the problems associated with Taiwan and the development of missile defence systems in the Pacific area. This could become a most dangerous situation. The Chinese government will not tolerate US interference in what it sees as an internal affair. Niu Qiang emphasised this point quite strongly.
This visit was most useful and Niu Qianq invited us to contact him if we needed information on developments in China in the near future.
It was a busy but rewarding visit – I found China a fascinating place and the Chinese people were so friendly and hospitable. It is also a huge country with an ancient culture which coexists alongside a developing technological society that is beginning to challenge many preconceived ideas on its role in the world.
I’m writing this while watching the US election results start to come in. The future is uncertain at this time – all I know is that we have to continue our work to ensure that whatever happens politically in the US, China or anywhere else the people of the world get a chance to make a future for their children and their children’s children.