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Digital Archive International History Declassified

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Chinese Nuclear History

Documents on the history of Chinese nuclear development. See also Nuclear Proliferation, and the related collections in the Nuclear Proliferation International History Project. (Image, Model of the first Chinese nuclear bomb, Max Smith)

  • January 31, 1955

    Address by Zhou Enlai at the Plenary Session of the Fourth Meeting of the State Council

    Zhou Enlai addresses the State Council citing a need for China to "master atomic energy." The Chinese program is far behind in this area, but plans to catch up with the help of Soviet technical assistance.

  • January 15, 1956

    Request by the Chinese leadership to the Soviet Leadership for Help in Establishing a Chinese Nuclear Program

    Request by Chinese leaders to the Soviet leadership for technical and scientific aid in establishing a nuclear program in the People's Republic of China, including exchange programs for Chinese scientists, building of scientific labs in China, and providing specialized education for Chinese students.

  • April 23, 1956

    Chinese Communist Party Central Committee Circular Concerning the Transfer of Cadres and Workers to Participate in Atomic Energy Development Work (extract)

    A Chinese Central Committee circular stresses the need for China to develop a healthy uranium prospecting and mining industry, and to transfer technical and administrative cadres to work with Soviet experts.

  • April 25, 1956

    Talk by Mao Zedong at an Enlarged Meeting of the Chinese Communist Party Central Committee Politburo (excerpt)

    Mao speaks to the Central Committee Politburo about the need to develop an atomic bomb to avoid being "bullied," but stresses that this can only happen if economic development increases simultaneously.

  • March 22, 1957

    Memorandum from the Soviet Government to the Chinese Government on the Arms Reduction Issue

    A memorandum from the Soviet government to the Chinese updating them on the arms reduction talks, a key component of which was a prohibition of the testing of atomic and hydrogen weapons. The Soviet proposal also called for reductions in conventional weapons and the prohibition of installing nuclear weapons outside their territorial borders.

  • July 11, 1957

    Handwritten Letter from Nie Rongzhen to Zhou Enlai on the Development of the Atomic Energy Industry

    A letter to Zhou Enlai informing him that the industrial development plan for China's atomic energy program has not been finalized and that the technical agreement with the Soviet Union must be delayed.

  • August 12, 1957

    Letter from Zhang Wentian to the Soviet Chargé Concerning the Development of the Atomic Energy Industry

    A letter from the Chinese Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs to the Soviet Chargé informing him that revisions must be made to the “Agreement on the Provision of Technical Assistance from the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics to the People’s Republic of China in Establishing an Atomic Energy Industry,” and that until it is revised the delivery of technical equipment should be delayed.

  • September 11, 1957

    Protocol No. 1 of the Joint Meeting of the Delegations of the Soviet Ministry of Defense Industry and Representatives of the Chinese People’s Republic

    Minutes from a meeting on Sino-Soviet efforts at defense planning and collaboration. Chinese defense officials looked for Russian help in the production of guided missiles, and the document illustrate their efforts to collaborate in the education and preparation of specialists, the staffing of military research institutes, the construction of defense-related factories, and the sharing of technology.

  • September 23, 1957

    Report on Meetings Between Chinese and Soviet Representatives on Rocket Production

    Record of four meetings with Chinese defense officials who were seeking Russian assistance in the production of guided missiles in Chinese factories. The discuss Sino-Soviet collaboration in the education and preparation of specialists, the staffing of military research institutes, the construction of defense-related factories, and the sharing of technology. Arrangements for the sale of R-2 and S-75 missiles were also discussed.

  • September 25, 1957

    Meeting of the Ministry of Defense Industry with Representatives of the Chinese Delegation

    Domrachev and the Chinese representatives discuss an article which states that the USSR will render assistance in the planning and creation of two research institutes in China for rockets and guidance equipment. It is decided that Chinese resources can enable the creation of no more than two institutes. Domrachev outlines the projected costs of the planning and technical documentation of the institutes, as well as the cost of construction materials.

  • October 02, 1957

    Meeting of the Representatives of the Chinese Delegation at the Ministry of Defense Industry

    Soviet Ministry of Defense Industry representative, Illarionov, explains to the Chinese delegation the radio technology industry’s role in the construction of rockets and components of the S-75 system.

  • February 28, 1958

    Conversation of Mao Zedong with Soviet Ambassador Pavel Yudin (extract)

    In a conversation with Soviet ambassador Yudin, Mao sees a prohibition of the use of hydrogen weapons as very likely, as the capitalist countries "[fear] fighting this kind of war." Further, he notes that the socialist countries have an advantage over Western ones in terms of conventional army size.

  • April 04, 1958

    Letter from Nikita Khrushchev to Zhou Enlai on the Prohibition of Nuclear Testing

    Khrushchev writes to Zhou outlining the Soviet Union's argument for the need to halt the testing of atomic weapons, and urges the Chinese to support and agree to the ban.

  • June 21, 1958

    Address by Mao Zedong to the Enlarged Meeting of the Central Military Commission (excerpt)

    Mao addresses the Central Military Commission to report on China's steel production, which he believes will surpass the Soviet Union's capability in seven years and the United States' in ten. He also makes it known that China will build "atom bombs, hydrogen bombs and inter-continental missiles," and believes this can be done in as few as ten years.

  • October 28, 1958

    Cable from the Chinese Embassy in the Soviet Union, 'Gromyko Discussed the Issue of Stopping Nuclear Weapons Tests'

    Gromyko informs Liu Xiao of the Soviet position and strategy in its negotiations with the United States and the United Kingdom for halting nuclear tests.

  • June 20, 1959

    Letter from the Communist Party of the Soviet Union Central Committee to the Chinese Communist Party Central Committee on the Temporary Halt in Nuclear Assistance

    The Soviet Central Committee informs their Chinese counterparts that, in light of the arms reduction talks taking place in Geneva, Soviet nuclear assistance must cease. The Chinese had requested a sample atomic bomb and technical data, but the Soviet feared that doing so would imperil the efforts of the socialist countries in Geneva.

  • July 03, 1960

    Report by Nie Rongzhen to Mao Zedong Regarding Science and Technology (abbreviated version)

    Nie Rongzhen reports to Mao on scientific and technical issues and Soviet assistance and cooperation in the area of nuclear development. The Chinese were becoming frustrated by what they called the Soviet "stranglehold" on key technical data, and led to an unwanted feeling of dependence on their Soviet comrades.

  • July 11, 1960

    Some Remarks by Zhou Enlai on a Report by Nie Rongzhen

    In the wake of a deepening Sino-Soviet split, Zhou Enlai explains how to manage Chinese bilateral technological and educational exchanges. Above all, Zhou emphasizes the importance of Chinese self-reliance in innovation and education as the country moves forward.

  • July 18, 1960

    Mao Zedong’s Talk at the Beidaihe Central Committee Work Conference (Extract)

    Mao Zedong declares that, in the absence of Soviet assistance, China must rely only upon itself in its pursuit of technological modernity and socialism.

  • September, 1960

    The Short Version of the Negotiations Between CPSU and CCP Delegations (September 1960)