China-U.S. nuclear security cooperation energizes new type of major-country ties
  • Updated:2016-04-04
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WASHINGTON D.C., April 1, 2016 (Xinhua) -- Chinese PresidentXi Jinpingattends the fourth Nuclear Security Summit in Washington D.C., theUnited States, April 1, 2016. (Xinhua)

by Xinhua Writers Chang Yuan, Xiong Maoling and Sun Ruijun

BEIJING, April 4 (Xinhua) -- The fourth and last Nuclear Security Summit (NSS), which concluded over the weekend in Washington, called to the attention the unfinished cause of strengthening the global architecture of nuclear security.

The Nuclear Security Center of Excellence (COE), jointly built by China and the United States in Beijing, has been an important result of cooperation between China and the United States in this regard.

The COE, inaugurated on March 18, is the largest, most advanced and most comprehensively equipped facility for nuclear security exchanges and training in the Asia-Pacific region capable of training 2,000 people a year.

The center, which opened about a month after Beijing and Washington conducted their first nuclear security dialogue, marks the latest major achievement the two sides have scored not only in the lead-up to the NSS, but also in their overall nuclear security cooperation, an area that has become a new bright spot in bilateral engagement and an illustrative footnote to the new type of major-country relations between China and the United States..

Chinese President Xi Jinping said on Friday during the NSS in Washington that his country will build a network for capacity building on nuclear security, by using the existing platforms, such as the COE, to carry out training of nuclear security professionals, exercises and exchanges regarding nuclear security technologies.


In response to the rising threat of nuclear terrorism, U.S. President Barack Obama hosted the first NSS in April 2010 in Washington, during which then Chinese President Hu Jintao announced that his country was considering establishing a COE on nuclear security. In the following January, Beijing and Washington inked an agreement on jointly building the facility in China.

Located in Fangshan District in southwest Beijing and inaugurated three years after the turning of the first shovel of dirt, the COE is the largest nuclear program to receive direct funding from both the Chinese and U.S. governments, and boasts state-of-the-art research and training installations.

The center is a significant achievement in China-U.S. nuclear security cooperation, said Wang Yiren, deputy director of the China Atomic Energy Authority (CAEA), adding that the two countries have also cooperated in other nuclear security areas such as low-enriched reactors, security of radioactive sources, and radiation detection at customs.

Page Stoutland, vice president of the Scientific and Technical Affairs at the Nuclear Threat Initiative (NTI), a nonprofit organization based in Washington, commented that China is increasingly seen as a responsible player in the global nuclear system.

Noting that China participates in the nuclear summits, engages with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), and has created the Center of Excellence, he said, "All of these are very good signs in terms of China's standing in the nuclear security community."

"I know there is optimism on both sides that the center will provide a place where there can be greater cooperation between the U.S. and China as well as others," he added.


During Xi's first state visit to the United States last September, the CAEA and the U.S. Department of Energy (DoE) signed a statement of intent on further strengthening bilateral nuclear security cooperation, which injected new momentum into the two countries' joint efforts in the area.

According to "China's Nuclear Emergency Preparedness," a white paper published in January, in line with an agreement on the peaceful use of nuclear energy, the CAEA and the DoE have conducted a number of training activities together, including a nuclear emergency medical rescue training program and a nuclear emergency consequence evaluation workshop.

The smooth cooperation on nuclear security comes despite many differences between China and the United States in other areas, pointed out Yang Xiyu, a research fellow with the China Institute of International Studies (CIIS).

"I believe the two sides will broaden and deepen cooperation in the field of nuclear security, because they have common concerns and are facing common challenges," he said.

Obama said the global efforts to secure the world's nuclear materials from wrong hands was "by no means finished" upon the close of the last nuclear security summit on Friday.

He said world leaders had made "significant, meaningful progress" to prevent nuclear materials being reached by terrorists, but there was still a large amount of nuclear and radioactive materials that must be secured.

Xi urged countries around the world to increase national input and expand international cooperation so as to further firm up the global nuclear security architecture in a speech delivered at the opening of the NSS on the same day.

Looking into the future, Hui Zhang, a senior research associate with the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs at Harvard University, said that against the background of a world that remains haunted by the specters of nuclear proliferation and even nuclear terrorism, such bilateral cooperation "should continue and grow stronger."

Zhang suggested China and the United States launch in-depth discussions and best practice exchanges on how to increase international assurance about nuclear security conditions.

"They can also conduct joint exercises to strengthen coordinated response in the event of a nuclear terrorism or nuclear smuggling event," Zhang said.


The increasingly close cooperation on nuclear security between China and the United States has a level of significance that goes far beyond the fission and fusion reactions. Observers say that it has set a good example for cooperation between the two global giants in other fields.

"Cooperation in civil nuclear facility security expands the field of China-U.S. cooperation, which will certainly provide impetus for building the new type of major-country relations," said Wu Xinbo, executive dean of the Institute of International Studies at Fudan University in Shanghai, China.

For one thing, such cooperation, which is to the delight of U.S. civil nuclear corporations, will help balance two-way trade, he said, adding that perhaps more importantly, it will contribute to enhancing strategic mutual trust and understanding.

Trust and understanding between the two countries are particularly needed now as their relations have been repeatedly strained over such thorny issues as the South China Sea and cyber security.

Some pessimists have even predicted that the differences over the South China Sea issue would dampen their willingness to expand strategic dialogues in other realms, including nuclear security.

Yang of the CIIS agreed that reinforced cooperation on nuclear security will "improve the overall atmosphere and contribute to stabilizing the framework of China-U.S. ties."

It will also generate specific interests for the two countries and bring real benefits to the development of the two economies and the well-being of the two peoples, he added.

"Nuclear security cooperation between China and the United States can be described as a fulcrum in the building of the new type of major-country relations," said Yang. "That is one of the reasons why China has actively participated in the NSS mechanism ever since it was launched."

(Xinhua Writer Deng Yushan in Beijing contributed to the story.)