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China’s Views and Recommendations on Promoting International Cooperation on Peaceful Uses in the Context of International Security

2022-04-22 11:00

     I. Summary

The United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) Resolution A/RES/76/234 requests all Member States to submit views and recommendations to the Secretary General of the United Nations (UNSG) on all aspects of promoting international cooperation on peaceful uses in the context of international security. China holds that utilizing science and technology for peaceful purposes and conducting relevant international cooperation are the inalienable rights of all countries conferred by international law. Against the background of the new era, the international community is in urgent need of strengthening coordination and effectively promoting international cooperation on the peaceful use of science and technology in a joint effort to safeguard universal security and share development achievements.

It is urgently needed to initiate and sustain an open, inclusive and just dialogue process within the framework of the UNGA and fully assess the current state of and challenges to peaceful uses and relevant international cooperation. While affirming and upholding existing international treaties, organizations and mechanisms and fulfilling related international obligations, we need to sort out challenges facing the international community, establish guiding principles and take concrete measures so as to promote peaceful uses and relevant international cooperation. In particular, the longstanding concerns of developing countries should be addressed by building consensus through dialogue and consultation, and removing undue restrictions, so as to ensure their full right to the peaceful use of science and technology, in the hope of achieving sustainable development while maintaining international peace and security.

II. The Importance of Promoting Peaceful Uses and Relevant International Cooperation

After decades of discussion and practice, the international community has concluded a series of legal and political instruments and established the basic principle on peaceful uses, i.e. while preventing the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) and their means of delivery to maintain international peace and security, the legitimate right of countries to utilize science and technology for peaceful purposes and carry out relevant international cooperation should also be ensured in order to promote sustainable economic and social development. While enjoying the right to peaceful uses, countries also have the responsibility to promote peaceful uses and relevant international cooperation. The aforementioned principle has been confirmed repeatedly by international legal instruments, including the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT), the Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production and Stockpiling of Bacteriological (Biological) and Toxin Weapons and on Their Destruction (BWC) and the Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production and Stockpiling and Uses of Chemical Weapons and on Their Destruction (CWC), as well as resolutions and documents of the UNGA, the UN Security Council and other relevant international organizations.

Throughout human history, science and technology have always been a key driving force for social and economic progress. In a globalized world, economies are highly interdependent and global industrial and supply chains are deeply intertwined. In the nuclear, biological, chemical, aerospace and aviation, information and communications industries and other areas, science and technology are developing rapidly and an industrial transformation is underway. Promoting the peaceful use of science and technology in relevant areas, enhancing relevant international exchanges and cooperation, and sharing scientific and technological outcomes play an important role in realizing sustainable development and in ensuring that countries fulfill their international non-proliferation and other obligations. The COVID-19 pandemic makes it all the more urgent for developing countries to have access to scientific and technological achievements, in order to tackle development challenges and bridge the technological and development gaps.

III. Assessment of the Current State of Peaceful Uses and Relevant International Cooperation

1. Over the years, the international community has achieved significant progress in international cooperation on the peaceful use of science and technology within multilateral frameworks including the UN, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) as well as through regional organizations and bilateral channels. Outcome documents of the NPT, BWC and CWC review conferences acknowledge State Parties’ political commitments and concrete efforts in promoting international cooperation on peaceful uses, and stress the importance of these efforts in realizing the purposes and goals of the aforementioned international legal instruments.

As the international community’s consensus on the significance of peaceful uses increases with time, developing countries have a stronger desire for closer international cooperation, and their needs become more diverse. In the mean time, the input of funds and human resources from assistance providers has steadily increased, and more stakeholders participate in international cooperation. The parties concerned have carried out useful discussions and explorations on important issues such as the scope of peaceful uses, the relationship between peaceful uses and non-proliferation-related export control, the role of peaceful uses in sustainable development, the methods and channels for carrying out international cooperation and the challenges to peaceful uses.

Notably, in the field of international cooperation on peaceful uses, integrating resources and enhancing efficiency through inter-sectoral and cross-organizational partnerships have gained more attention. For example, nuclear technology is widely used in health care, food and agriculture, environmental protection and other fields, playing an important role in promoting sustainable development and well-being. The peaceful use of biotechnology is instrumental for the improvement in global public health. In the context of COVID-19, international cooperation within the framework of the BWC has become more closely connected with the efforts of the World Health Organization (WHO), the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE).

2. On the other hand, developing countries are facing severe challenges in participating in international cooperation on peaceful uses without discrimination. The root causes of these challenges lie in the fact that, out of the Cold War mentality and geopolitical purposes, certain countries ignore developing countries' legitimate right to peaceful uses and their own international responsibilities and obligations to promote peaceful uses. They deviate from the original purpose of upholding international security and non-proliferation of WMDs, and regard scientific and technological sector as a battlefield of “democracy against autocracy”, label other countries as “tech-autocracy”, politicize scientific and technological issues, and impose undue restrictions on peaceful uses. These challenges mainly take the following forms:

Wantonly discredit and suppress foreign governments and entities under the pretext of non-proliferation, national security, human rights and values, among others.

Expand the scope of control, abuse the principle of “catch-all”, ignore the need for legitimate and reasonable end-uses, and disrupt or obstruct normal import and export of items and technologies not on the control lists.

Put in place various kinds of discriminatory export control blacklists,and implement illegal unilateral sanctions and long-arm jurisdiction.

Promote decoupling in the field of science and technology, excessively restrict or even block the regular technology transfer to specific countries in areas such as artificial intelligence, digital economy, semiconductors, nuclear energy, aerospace and aviation, and bio-medicine.

Disrupt or even obstruct normal scientific and technological exchanges and cooperation projects under the pretext of controlling “intangible technology transfer”. Obstruct scientific researchers' normal interactions, academic exchanges and participation in international conferences through stigmatization, background check, visa refusal and other means, and restrict normal overseas study programs.

Work to transform existing non-proliferation-related export control regimes into a new Coordinating Committee for Multilateral Export Controls (COCOM), and form various small cliques with allies in an attempt to multilateralize unilateral policies and measures.

Obstruct developing countries' participation in the making of standards and rules related to science and technology, especially emerging technologies.

These wrongdoings have seriously undermined the legitimate rights and interests of developing countries and fundamentally shaken the legal basis for peaceful uses and relevant international cooperation, deepening developing countries' concerns on the lack of guarantee for their right to peaceful uses and obstructing international community's discussion on peaceful uses and relevant cooperation. Such practices have also seriously damaged countries' confidence in normal international commercial and trade exchanges and in scientific and technological cooperation.

The wrongdoings of certain countries caused broad concerns within the international community long ago. The Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) has voiced strong concerns over undue restrictions on peaceful uses in each and every outcome document of its summit since its 1998 summit in Durban. Developing countries have repeatedly appealed within the framework of the UN and relevant treaties and organizations for removing discriminatory export control measures. Certain countries have arbitrarily stepped up restrictive measures in the implementation of the UN Security Council sanctions resolutions, further escalating the humanitarian crisis in countries and regions concerned. These actions have drawn strong international condemnation. In the context of COVID-19, many developing countries have indicated the profound negative impact on their efforts to combat the virus caused by frequent obstruction of their access to anti-epidemic supplies, medicines, vaccine R&D and relevant technologies.

As the largest developing country, China is also a victim of the wrongdoings of certain countries. In recent years, these countries have repeatedly clamored for technology decoupling from China and adopted such means as formulating sanctions and control lists and revising export control rules, to cut off the channels through which China acquires technologies,products and equipment in semiconductors, bio-medicine and other fields. Certain countries even put political pressures on other countries, in order to interfere with their normal trade and science and technology cooperation with China, obstruct the export of high-tech products from companies of relevant countries to China and even restrict normal interactions among scientific researchers. China has repeatedly voiced its serious concerns over these issues, and has taken necessary countermeasures.

3. The existing non-proliferation-related export control regimes, i.e. the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG), the Wassenaar Arrangement (WA), the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR) and the Australia Group (AG) play important roles in fulfilling the aim of non-proliferation. Their best practices and control lists are valued and drawn on by many countries, including China. China will stay committed to promoting the sound and sustainable development of the NSG and uphold the authority of the international nuclear non-proliferation regime. China is also willing to conduct dialogue and develop relations with the WA, MTCR and AG in the spirit of equality and mutual benefit.

The purposes and goals of these regimes all underscore the importance of peaceful uses. For example, the NSG stresses that international trade and cooperation in the nuclear field should not be hindered unjustly. The WA emphasizes that the arrangement will not be directed against any state or group of states and will not impede bona fide civil transactions. The MTCR highlights that its guidelines are not designed to impede national space programs or international cooperation in such programs. The AG explains that its guidelines are not intended to impede chemical or biological trade or international cooperation. 

On the other hand, these regimes also face challenges in their development. Despite their outreach efforts, their inadequacy in inclusiveness and transparency has not been fully resolved. The control of certain items and technologies concerns the interests of all countries. Developing countries have been calling for removing undue restrictions on normal personnel exchanges, science and technology communications and international trade. Scientific and technological advancement requires timely updating of the export control standards and lists in different fields, in order to implement necessary controls and at the same time avoid hindering the application and sharing of scientific and technological achievements. These issues should be solved by bringing all relevant exporters, importers and users on board, rather than be solely decided by members of relevant regimes.Certain countries are trying to remodel existing regimes into a new COCOM, which aggravates the existing problems of these regimes,and will likely lead these regimes in a wrong direction. Other members of the regimes should remain on high alert against this attempt.

IV. Basic Principles in Promoting Peaceful Uses and Relevant International Cooperation

China advocates that all countries should proceed from the spirit of “Peaceful Uses for All”, and abide by and promote the following principles:

1. Practice true multilateralism, uphold the principle of extensive consultation,joint contribution and shared benefits, take concrete measures to ensure that all countries enjoy the legitimate right to the peaceful use of science and technology, and work together to promote international cooperation on peaceful uses.

2. Give full play to the UN as the most universal international organization and the core platform of global governance, conduct regular and comprehensive dialogues in an open, inclusive and just way to promote peaceful uses and relevant international cooperation.

3. Make full use of existing international,regional and bilateral treaties, organizations, mechanisms and arrangements. Promote peaceful uses and relevant international cooperation within their respective mandates in order to make them mutually complementary with the dialogue under the framework of the UNGA.

4. Pursue development and security in a well-coordinated way and continuously promote international cooperation on peaceful uses in order to fulfill the Sustainable Development Goals while effectively addressing the security challenges posed by scientific and technological progress.

5. Strike a balance between non-proliferation-related export control and peaceful uses. Non-proliferation goals should not be pursued at the cost of the right to peaceful uses. Upholding the legitimate right to peaceful uses does not prejudice countries' fulfillment of international non-proliferation obligations and their exercise of sovereign right to export controls.

6. Non-proliferation-related export control should not become the tool for pursuing ideological and geopolitical goals. All countries should make sure that their policies,laws and practices do not hamper international cooperation on peaceful uses, and abolish relevant undue restrictions.

7. Take goals-led and results-oriented actions, fulfill obligations and commitments through concrete actions, pool resources globally and enhance efficiency through cross-sectoral and inter-organizational collaboration in order to continuously promote international cooperation on peaceful uses.

V. The Way Forward for Further Promoting Peaceful Uses and Relevant International Cooperation under the New Circumstances

1. Promote dialogues under the framework of the UNGA. Explore the following ways based on the UNGA Resolution Promoting International Cooperation on Peaceful Uses in the Context of International Security (A/RES/76/234): hold a First Committee meeting or joint meeting between the First and Second Committees of the UNGA annually; hold a high-level thematic conference every two years at the UNGA; establish a Group of Governmental Experts (GGE) or an Open-Ended Working Group (OEWG) under the framework of the UNGA; encourage Member States to submit reports to the UNSG every two years,and request the UNSG to submit a report to the UNGA on that basis.

2. Make full use of the review mechanisms of existing treaties and conventions. Take a series of Review Conferences,including the Tenth Review Conference of the NPT and the Ninth Review Conference of the BWC to be held in 2022,and the Fifth Review Conference of the CWC to be held in 2023, as opportunities to comprehensively review the state of peaceful uses and relevant international cooperation within their mandates, and take this as a top priority in later review processes. Encourage countries to make an action plan on promoting peaceful uses and relevant international cooperation in the outcome documents of the aforementioned Review Conferences. Strengthen coordination with the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and related Technology Facilitation Mechanism. Optimize the dispute settlement mechanisms of the treaties and conventions to address differences through dialogue and consultation.

3. Optimize the existing non-proliferation-related export control regimes. Encourage the NSG, WA, MTCR and AG to be open to participation by all interested and eligible countries. Encourage such regimes to be more transparent, and communicate to the international community their efforts to implement their purpose by participating in the UNGA dialogue process and the aforementioned Review Conferences. Of particular note here is reporting their moves to step up control of certain items and technologies, and the validity of such decisions, and seeking the views and recommendations of other countries.

4. Explore the feasibility of establishing confidence-building measures. Encourage UN Member States to report on their national implementation measures, progress and action plans, as well as needs and difficulties in promoting and participating in international cooperation on peaceful uses, in their national submissions to the UNSG on a voluntary basis.

5. Explore the feasibility of establishing a new global regime. Look into the establishment of a universal, comprehensive and non-discriminatory regime under the framework of the UNGA through multilateral negotiations. Its main responsibilities may include but are not limited to: serving as a platform for regular dialogues and policy coordination, sharing and integrating resources and needs of peaceful uses and relevant international cooperation and assistance, establishing and managing a voluntary fund to promote international cooperation on peaceful uses, and hosting discussions on universally applicable export control rules and control lists.

6. Encourage the participation of more stakeholders. Encourage all countries to intensify awareness raising and implementation efforts to increase the general public's understanding of the importance and validity of peaceful uses. Bring the business and academic communities and related non-governmental organizations into the dialogue and cooperation processes.

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