With nearly 1.3 billion people, China is the world’s most populous country. China has transformed itself, in relatively short order, from a centrally planned economy to a market-oriented creator and seller of modern technology and industrial products—making it the second largest economy in the world. Over the past quarter century, it has become a leading economic, military, and political player. Already Asia’s principal power, China is rapidly becoming a regional competitor with the United States in military strength and political influence.
The Foundation has contributed $10.8 million to conservation, human rights, and peace and security projects related to China, including $2.6 million directly to Chinese organizations. Our investment in this area of work continues to grow.
This issue of the Foundation's electronic newsletter highlights MacArthur’s work in China, which is playing an increasingly important role in global affairs. In particular, the newsletter outlines Foundation initiatives in international peace and security that expand on our work with a small but remarkable and growing community of Chinese scientists interested in arms control.
The Foundation made its first grants in China in 1988, when few outside organizations were working inside the country. One goal of these early grants was to share the experience of U.S.-Soviet arms control initiatives with Chinese scientists. The workshops and conferences these grants funded opened new lines of communication between some of the most secretive institutions in China and international technical experts working to prevent nuclear accidents, halt nuclear tests, dismantle weapons, and prevent the spread of these technologies. We believe these interactions reinforced the longstanding Chinese moratorium on nuclear testing and China’s decision to sign the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty.
A second early goal was to identify and support Chinese scientists interested in new cooperative security initiatives and to cultivate a new community of experts and strengthen their links to policymakers. Our grantees have since played a role in the global test ban monitoring system and in technical analysis of North Korea’s nuclear program. They have informed China’s decision to negotiate the Biological and Chemical Weapons Conventions, join the Nuclear Suppliers Group, improve compliance with the Missile Technology Control Regime, and call for a ban on weapons in space. All of these developments are part of an encouraging trend of international engagement given the country’s growing economic and military might.
As the Foundation has expanded the scope of its peace and security grants in China, it also added grants in the areas of conservation and human rights. The first conservation grants to China (1991) were made to protect the tropical forests of Yunnan Province, one of China’s poorest areas and among the most vulnerable to deforestation and natural resource exploitation. Three Foundation grants are currently active in this remote region of extraordinary biodiversity and natural beauty.
Building on the strong ties that exist among the indigenous peoples of Yunnan Province and the neighboring nations in South and Southeast Asia, the Foundation supported international conferences, held in 1994 and 1997, to enhance trans-boundary cooperation on conservation issues.
Beginning in 1987, the Foundation supported efforts to increase public understanding of China by funding documentary film projects, bringing together U.S. and Chinese journalists, and supporting the Aspen Congressional Roundtables to facilitate annual sessions on China for members of Congress. The Foundation recently provided a grant to the Carnegie Endowment for an expanding program on China that promotes collaborative interactions with a number of research institutions in China on issues such as regime transition in authoritarian states, corruption, and the impact on China’s legal system of joining the World Trade Organization.
In 2005, the Foundation began to explore grants to Chinese institutions that are working to improve human rights protections and promote the rule of law within the current political system. An example is the grant to Tsinghua University Law School for training legal aid workers in rural areas. Legal reform became a government priority in China in the 1990s with legislation for improving and professionalizing the legal system. However, there is much to be done, and the flight of the country’s few existing lawyers to the urban centers has left the rural poor with a deficient legal system and lack of access to legal services through which to seek redress of abuses. It is hoped that legal aid workers or “barefoot lawyers” will help to fill this gap. At the same time, the Foundation continues its support for U.S. and Hong Kong-based Human Rights in China for the compilation of a political prisoners’ databank, innovative electronic dissemination of human rights news, and efforts to hold the government accountable for human rights treaties to which it has acceded.
We hope you find this information useful and, as always, welcome your comments.
Jonathan F. Fanton
President, John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation
The MacArthur Foundation seeks to promote international peace and security by helping to reduce the dangers posed by the development, stockpiling, and proliferation of the world’s most destructive weapons. In that context, this fall, the Foundation made seven grants totaling nearly $1 million to organizations in China to provide training and research opportunities for 100 new Chinese technical security specialists. Dozens of research projects are now under way, including those that focus on new lines of inquiry into nuclear proliferation, biosecurity, cybersecurity, and the dangers of weaponizing space.
The Foundation’s expansion of science and security grantmaking in China is based on several assumptions about the future:
- As long as China is a nuclear weapons power (with plans to expand nuclear energy production), it will need technical advice to reduce nuclear risks and support nuclear nonproliferation initiatives abroad. At present, China is estimated to have an arsenal of 400 nuclear warheads, including land-based missiles, bombers, and submarine-launched ballistic missiles. In addition to the military’s nuclear complex, China plans to greatly expand its nuclear power sector by purchasing nuclear reactors and other peaceful nuclear technology from American and European vendors.
- As China’s technology research sector continues to boom, it will become an increasingly important player in the development of space technology, biotechnology, and advanced computer systems. Like nuclear power, all of these technologies can be exploited for military uses. If the world is to be successful in designing systems for preventing bioterrorism, limiting cyber-warfare, and preventing an arms race in space, China will need to be actively involved.
- China’s arm control scientists will play a role that is larger than advising their own government. Like the Manhattan Project physicists who conceived of nuclear arms control, Chinese scientists can help build bridges of cooperation among the United States, Europe, and China, as well as to technical communities in North Korea, Pakistan, and possibly even Iran. While technical solutions are not the only answer to problems of a political and military nature, arms control agreements require technical advice and arrangements if they are to succeed.
Tsinghua University Institute of International Studies
The Arms Control Program at Tsinghua University is one of the few in China that conducts independent analysis of arms control, nonproliferation, and disarmament issues. Physicists are studying the operational safety and strategic stability of nuclear weapons; export controls on nuclear, chemical, and missile components that could be used in assembling weapons of mass destruction; and national and theater missile defense systems. A grant to Tsinghua University is supporting four visiting fellow positions for science and security researchers from other universities in China and 25-30 doctoral and postdoctoral students pursuing research on science and security issues. A separate grant is supporting the publication of Science of International Politics, an important new international security journal.
Institute of Applied Physics and Computational Mathematics
As the number of Chinese arms control scientists and their counterparts abroad has grown, these experts have begun to play an increasing role in national policymaking. The Institute of Applied Physics and Computational Mathematics sponsors conferences and technical workshops that are described by nuclear weapons scientists in China and the U.S., including those from U.S. national labs in Livermore, Sandia, and Los Alamos, critical venues for communication and information exchange. A new grant to the institute will support the expansion and enhancement of meetings that bring together 150-200 regional specialists and weapons scientists from China, the U.S., and two dozen additional countries.
China Arms Control and Disarmament Association
At the China Arms Control and Disarmament Association, microbiologists will respond to a growing interest in Beijing (after the SARS crisis) to strengthen national and international regulations on pathogens and biotechnology, including the Biological Weapons Convention. A grant to the association will involve new researchers focused on biological weapons dangers in the policy research of the organization. It will also provide expertise and advice to China’s foreign and defense agencies on policies to control the spread of dangerous pathogens and biotechnologies.
The School of International Studies at Peking University is a major training ground for social scientists and government officials pursuing careers in foreign and security policy. The faculty is an important source of policy advice to the government on arms control and nonproliferation issues. A grant to the program is supporting a new faculty position and two senior visiting science and security scholars, who will encourage science faculty at the university to consider policy-relevant research. Dozens of graduate students will also be exposed to security studies with a scientific and technical dimension.
China has greatly expanded its activities in outer space, from increased commercial activity to manned space flight to arguing for a treaty banning weapons in space. Beihang University is the leading incubator of space expertise in Beijing, and a team of astrophysicists at the School of Astronautics is eager to play a more active role in policy-relevant technical research. The first MacArthur grant to this institution will support research on space debris and bring as many as ten additional scientists into technical arms control research.
A related grant to the China Foundation for International and Strategic Studies will support policy research on the efforts of private individuals, entities, and networks to acquire the means to build nuclear weapons or radioactive explosive devices. The project will improve China’s understanding of the threat posed by networks outside of China and provide policymakers with new insights into a problem of growing international concern.
The University of Georgia Center for International Trade and Security has developed a methodology for evaluating national export controls systems that is now the field standard and has been incorporated into the diagnostic tools employed by the U.S. Departments of State and Energy. A grant to the center supports training and workshops on export control development and related areas of trade and security policy for staff of the China Arms Control and Disarmament Association and for business and government leaders.