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"U.S.-China Experts Meet to Strengthen Nuclear Cooperation"

Powerful Partnership: The U.S. nuclear experts in China for meetings with Chinese colleagues visit the country’s pilot fast breeder reactor.
Photo by Martin Malin

"U.S.-China Experts Meet to Strengthen Nuclear Cooperation"

Newsletter Article, Belfer Center Newsletter, Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs

Summer 2010

Author: Martin B. Malin, Executive Director, Project on Managing the Atom

Belfer Center Programs or Projects: International Security; Managing the Atom; Science, Technology, and Public Policy


A cooperative U.S.-Chinese nuclear relationship is essential for making good on the United States' commitment, as stated by President Obama in Prague a year ago, to "seek the peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons." Yet that relationship has been fraught with tension. In mid-March, the Belfer Center's Managing the Atom (MTA) Project, together with Professor Li Bin of Tsinghua University, convened back-to-back workshops in Beijing on ways to strengthen U.S.-Chinese cooperation across a broad agenda of issues. MTA research associate Hui Zhang organized the effort from the U.S. side. The discussions in China involved more than 40 leading nuclear experts and policymakers. Matthew Bunn, Steven Miller, Zhou Yun, and Martin Malin participated, along with Zhang, on behalf of the MTA project.

The confidential discussions focused on: U.S. and Chinese approaches to preventing nuclear terrorism; Chinese nuclear weapons policies and perspectives on the U.S. nuclear posture; reactions to the Prague arms control agenda; opportunities for strengthening cooperation on nonproliferation; and China's nuclear energy and commercial reprocessing plans.

The discussions came at a critical juncture: U.S.-Chinese relations were at a low point, the level of Chinese participation in the Nuclear Security Summit was in question, and China's willingness to support any further UN Security Council sanctions on Iran was in doubt.

Many of the Chinese participants expressed the view that the discussions were an important means of improving their understanding of relevant U.S. policies, reducing misunderstanding and building up trust, and increasing U.S.-Chinese cooperation. There was a strong consensus that nongovernmental hosts and off-the-record rules were highly conducive to getting beyond scripted, diplomatic discussion, and should occur regularly in the future. The Harvard-Tsinghua partnership was also successful in forging new relationships between the individuals stepping into leading foreign and energy policy roles in China and the established U.S. experts, such as Richard Garwin, Frank von Hippel, Mark Hibbs, and those in the MTA group.

The discussions were part of an ongoing MTA research initiative on China's nuclear policies, led by Zhang, and made possible by generous support from the Carnegie Corporation of New York and the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation.


For more information about this publication please contact the MTA Program Assistant at 617-495-4219.

For Academic Citation:

Malin, Martin. "U.S.-China Experts Meet to Strengthen Nuclear Cooperation." Belfer Center Newsletter, Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, Summer 2010.

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