SCRAP Interview with Chinese Arms Control Expert Professor Li Bin of Qinghua University

In November 2012, SCRAP intern Kyle Acierno interviewed Chinese arms control expert, Professor Li Bin, Director of the Arms Control Program at the Institute of International Studies, School of Social Sciences, Qinghua University, Beijing. The purpose of this interview was to explain and introduce the SCRAP project to Professor Li Bin as well as ask his opinion on a number of arms-related issues.

Kyle: How do you feel about the globalization of the INF (Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces) accord?

Li Bin: INF was targeted towards China. It is about Russia and the US working together to contain China. Anyway, you could use ballistic missiles, nobody has banned ballistic missiles, but close range missiles are ok. Now the US and Russia don’t have these weapons and China does, so it’s aimed at China.

Kyle: How do you feel about the application of CFE (Treaty on Conventional Armed Forces in Europe), Vienna Document-type CBMs, to NE Asia or other regions affected by conflict?

Li Bin: It would be nice if there was something like it. The US really would not like it though because the US likes to have superiority, they cannot accept a limit. The European Commission Agreement was based on some symmetrical arrangement, but the US does not accept any symmetrical agreements. They want to be strong; they want to be the hegemon. The US feels they enjoy military superiority. China knows that it would not work.

Kyle: Similarly, the Open Skies Treaty provides for a transparency (via aerial surveillance) regime that remains active and could potentially be applied to other regions. What do you think about this?

Li Bin: The Open Skies Treaty, the other countries do not want to allow China to join it. Anyway, the benefit is the treaty is becoming less and less important because of Google Earth. The spirit of the Treaty is nice, but Google Earth now allows you to buy satellite photos to make analyses.

Kyle:  Fissile Material Control: as efforts proceed to begin some work on the contents of a treaty to ban the production of fissile material for nuclear weapons after years of procedural deadlock, will/can China contribute to this effort?

Li Bin: What will China do? China will not do much. The best thing that China could say is let’s do it, let’s ban fissile material. They will not take lead. China does not feel that it has enough fissile material anyways.

Kyle: Does its failure to endorse a moratorium on fissile material production indicate that it still wants to “hedge its bets” for future expansion of its nuclear forces?

Li Bin: China does not want to make a political commitment. If the US makes more developments, more missile defence interceptors, China will need more nuclear war heads, so for that reason China needs more fissile material. China is always just following the US. China does not always feel like it needs everything, but it will defend itself.

China has always wanted a small nuclear arsenal. They have a huge amount of money, they don’t know how to use it, and they waste money on stupid things. If they need arsenal they can get it. They have a small nuclear force because the Chinese government thinks that it doesn’t need one. If the US keeps developing missile offence, China may be forced to develop some more fissile material.

Kyle: Arms Trade Treaty: negotiations on this are likely to resume next March. What are current Chinese views as to the nature of this and other efforts at controlling the hitherto unregulated trade in conventional arms?

Li Bin: The European Embargo is very political. It does not make sense to have this agreement.

Kyle: What do you think about the idea of SCRAP?

Li Bin: I like to do small things, this project seems very big. But I am happy that young people are looking at things like this. You are a different generation and have the ability to accomplish things that we couldn’t. Good luck on your work!

Kyle Acierno is a SCRAP intern studying at Simon Fraser University, Vancouver, Canada

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