Search in
ADD SEARCH FILTER CANCEL SEARCH FILTER

Digital Archive International History Declassified

January 31, 1955

ADDRESS BY ZHOU ENLAI AT THE PLENARY SESSION OF THE FOURTH MEETING OF THE STATE COUNCIL (EXCERPT)

This document was made possible with support from the Leon Levy Foundation, Carnegie Corporation

CITATION SHARE DOWNLOAD
  • Citation

    get citation

    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.
    "Address by Zhou Enlai at the Plenary Session of the Fourth Meeting of the State Council (Excerpt)," January 31, 1955, History and Public Policy Program Digital Archive, Dang de wenxian (Party Historical Documents), no. 3 (1994): 16-19. Translated by Neil Silver. https://digitalarchive.wilsoncenter.org/document/114333
  • share document

    https://digitalarchive.wilsoncenter.org/document/114333

VIEW DOCUMENT IN

English HTML

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

31 January 1955

You all have seen the statement released by the Soviet Council of Ministers on the issue of Soviet assistance concerning Chinese peaceful use of atomic energy published in the press on January 18. This issue has previously been discussed internally many times, and now just recently the Soviet government has issued a statement making this public. Until now, we had not reported to the State Council plenary, since we had wanted to firm up this issue. 

This is a very good thing. In the past we had no foundation in this area. The Academy of Sciences had some understanding, but we had none. We invited Minister Li Siguang and Institute Director Qian Sanqiang to discuss this with us several times, only being able to recognize terms in documents. Now, we have a fair understanding from the Soviet Council of Ministers’ statement and academician [D. K.] Skobel’styn’s replies to reporters. This is a new issue for China. We are now in the atomic age. We have to understand atomic energy whether used for peace or war. We have to master atomic energy. We are far behind in this area, but, with Soviet help, we have the confidence and determination that we can catch up. Minister Li Siguang and Institute Director Qian Sanqiang tell us that it is possible to catch up, especially with the enthusiastic support of the Soviet Union. The Soviet Council of Ministers has already made its statement public and this kind of publicity is essential. Atomic energy now is already general knowledge and is being discussed all over the world. Imperialism is clamoring about atomic war; we have to expose this. We have to make the world’s people understand that if atomic energy is used to serve peaceful construction, it can benefit mankind, but, if used to serve of war, it will destroy mankind. The Soviet Council of Ministers’ statement includes its decision to provide scientific, technical and industrial help to other countries and [notes] that it is now considering the scope of the countries to which it can provide assistance. This focuses the attention of all the people of world on the issue of atomic energy and forces them to pay the same level of attention as they once did to the steam engine. If even knowledge about atomic energy is lacking, how will there be the will and the courage to prevent atomic war and spur the peaceful use of atomic energy? What after all is the power of atomic weapons? Many people are not clear. As a consequence, this has given rise to two types of attitudes in the world: one is ignorance and the other is terror. Our Chinese people believe there is nothing special about the atomic bomb and ignore it, looking down at it with derision. [But] It is incorrect to ignore it, and most of the world’s people are terrified by it. The United States produces atomic weapons and hydrogen weapons, but itself is extremely terrified [of them]. American imperialism clamors about atomic war, but the first to be scared was not us, but they themselves. When Secretary of Defense Forrestal, who was in charge of this issue, heard in 1949 that the Soviets had mastered atomic weapons, he was distraught, committing suicide by leaping from a building. In Western countries, most are terrified of atomic weapons. Last Friday, when Chairman Mao received a foreign ambassador, that ambassador said that atomic weapons were very fearsome, and that if several hydrogen bombs were dropped on China, China would be almost completely wiped out. I said, just think about it, the very greatest harm would come to countries with concentrated industry and populations. Mao said that the very greatest harm would merely be that a hole would be blown clean through the earth, and, if there was a hole blown through the earth, and one entered from China, the other side would be none other than the United States. In all, fewer than 100 million people were killed and wounded during the Second World War. If there were another war, and, let us say that China suffered casualties equivalent to the number of people killed and wounded in the Second World War, we would still have 500 million people. America is trying to use terror to scare us, but it cannot scare us. On the Taiwan issue, it is trying to employ the threat of war to scare us, but it hasn’t scared us.

Speaking positively, we have to make the broad masses of the people understand atomic energy, and [to that end] carry out extensive education and serious work. Last year a friend said to me: Why don’t we announce that we have also mastered atomic weapons? I said: Why should we do this? We have to be practical and realistic, if we haven’t mastered [them], then we haven’t mastered [them]. It is not very hard to master atomic weapons. We have Soviet help, and if only we apply ourselves seriously, we will be able to master atomic weapons.

[…]

Speaking positively, we have to openly carry out education, seriously engage in work, and actively pursue the peaceful use of atomic energy. From the negative point of view, we have to appeal to the [world’s] people to oppose the use of atomic weapons and oppose the carrying out of atomic warfare. Combining these positive and negative aspects, now we need to implement work on the following several fronts.

(1) Open a campaign. The Standing Committee of the World Peace Council, meeting in Vienna on the 19th [of January 1955], approved a letter to the people of the world calling on them to rise up to prevent the use of atomic weapons, and to prevent the production of atomic weapons. At the time, [Irene] Joliot-Currie, Guo Moruo and others signed [the letter], deciding to initiate a signature drive throughout the world. Our country must support this signature campaign. In two previous signature campaigns, there was a very good response from the people of our country, and in this signature campaign there will be an even greater response. The people demand peace and oppose atomic war. The people of the West are still oppressed, [but] in the Soviet Union and among the already liberated people in the people’s democracies, this campaign will be pushed forward. We have a lot of people in our country, and there is always a large number of signees. They all hope that we will promote this campaign. Preparations are underway to hold the World Peace Conference this May in Helsinki. We plan to start a signature campaign from this February. Signatures can be gathered collectively. In villages, we can employ the procedure of voting by a show of hands at mass meetings, on the one hand supporting Soviet assistance to China’s peaceful use of atomic energy and, on the other hand, opposing the production and use of atomic weapons. This signature campaign can be carried out together with other work. Now the Taiwan question is under fierce discussion on the agenda of the United Nations. We must liberate Taiwan and oppose U.S. armed intervention. We need to mobilize the people throughout the country on this. Furthermore, the work of recruiting new soldiers in the villages starts in February, and there needs to be a mobilization. This work can be combined and carried out together. The signature drive should be led by the China Peace Assembly.

(2) Carry out atomic energy education. We have not done this in the past, and many of our leadership cadres don’t understand [this issue]. We have asked the Academy of Sciences to take charge of this work. First, the Academy of Sciences is meeting to unify its own understanding. It has already held small group meetings, and it will be holding a large meeting. Second, we are organizing a course of lectures on the peaceful use of atomic energy. Starting with [the lectures] organized for high-level cadres, in the distributed documents, we don’t understand some of the terminology and how can we peacefully use atomic energy. We will invite Qian Sanqiang, Zhou Peiyuan, Qian Weichang, and Zhao Zhongrao to speak, record what they say and carry out this kind of education all over the country. Third, compile some pamphlets for popular consumption. Some Soviet books have been translated, but we may not be able to use them all, since [the Russian] cultural level is high. A comrade just asked me whether at the time of compilation we should divide them into high-level and elementary-level [material]. I think we should not make this distinction. With the present state of knowledge of atomic energy, there can be no distinction made between high-level and elementary-level [material]. Fourth, write some articles for publication in newspapers welcoming Soviet assistance for our country’s peaceful use of atomic energy and opposing American clamoring about the use of nuclear weapons. There is a lot of material to make a comparison. The Soviet Union uses atomic piles to generate electricity, and the United States does not do this, because American capitalists do not agree. They have a lot of electric power stations. If they use atomic energy to generate electricity, the profits of the capitalists will be severely affected. So they use [atomic power] on the military side and, in this way, military-industrial capitalists can reap great profits. Recently, in a report to Congress, [President] Eisenhower said that he wanted to use atomic power for small-scale submersible aircraft carriers. Is this not a good comparison? Fifth, we need to put together a group of students and direct them towards the study of physics. By international standards, the level of our experts cannot be considered as high. But, with even a few, things are not easy. There are just too few people to do this kind of research in China. In the past not enough attention has been paid to this in assigning students. Now we are paying attention and will undertake reforms. Yang Xiufeng and Gong Zirong should assign some good students in the future. In the past students assigned to study physics were of neither good scientific nor good political quality. Although we will openly publicize the peaceful use of atomic energy, work [on nuclear energy] will remain secret, so both scientific and political quality must both be good. When the students sent abroad for study by various ministries return to China, if the Academy of Sciences wants them, it has priority. We must assign good ones to university physics, chemistry and mathematics departments. We didn’t promote this in the past, but now we must promote this; it just won’t do not to have enough [talented] people. The Soviet statement says that it will help in our development and broadly assist us. For this, we will need at least 300 to 500 specialized personnel; the present number is insufficient, and we must train [more]. Though it will take four or five years from the time they start school, this will be alright. We also need to increase [the number of] college engineering departments. The Ministry of Higher Education should approve the establishment of an applied physics department at Tsinghua University. Minister Yang Xiufeng, do you understand atomic energy (Minister Yang Xiufeng replied: I don’t). If you don’t, you should go and audit courses. Without understanding atomic energy, you won’t enjoy [your work]. Sixth, we must gradually extract the current experts in atomic physics from administrative work. Only then can we strengthen the organization of physics experts. Qian Sanqiang is Secretary General at the Academy of Sciences and also Vice Chairman of the Youth Federation; Qian Weichang is Dean of Studies at Tsinghua University; Zhou Peiyuan is Dean of Studies at Peking University; at Zhejiang University there is a specialist in physics named Hu Qiming who is serving as Deputy Dean of Studies, and who we have tried to transfer [to Beijing] for a long time without success; now we must issue an order to transfer him; we must “liberate” them from administrative units. If no one suitable can be found to be dean of students, just let there be an honorary dean of students. In sum, we need to call experts back to the ranks. If any of you know of specialists, recommend them, don’t hide them.

(3) Carry out work conscientiously. In promoting the peaceful use of atomic energy, we must work seriously and conscientiously, and must protect secrecy, as the country is presently doing. If we do not carry out broad-based education, we will not be able to achieve results. Uranium mines must remain secret, but, what exactly a uranium mine is something that everyone needs to know, and must gradually learn. It just won’t do if miners see a uranium mine and don’t know it. The Ministry of Geology has more than 20,000 people working on drilling teams; the Ministry of Fuel Industry has 40,000; and the Ministry of Heavy Industry has 20,000. They all must know when they see uranium-bearing rock. This is common knowledge. We must promote education among the people. We must enlarge and enlighten everyone’s vision, [but] after discovery [of uranium], of course, secrecy must be protected, and we must distinguish between general [knowledge] and secrets. The job of serious research is the work of a small number of people, but opposition to the use of atomic weapons is something for hundreds of millions, and the expansion of education in atomic energy is something for millions.

CHINESE (TRANSCRIPTION) HTML

周恩来在国务院全体会议第四次会议上的讲话(节录)

1955131

关于苏联帮助中国和平利用原子能问题,一月十八日报纸上刊登的苏联部长会议发表的声明,大家已经看到了。这个问题,先前已在内部磋商多次了,不久前苏联政府发表声明,公布了这件事。过去因为想把问题弄得更成熟些,所以没有向国务院全体会议报告。

这是一件很好的事情。过去我们在这方面没有基础,科学院懂得一些,我们就不懂。曾经请李四光部长、钱三强所长给我们讲过几次,也只能看懂文件上的名词,现在对于苏联部长会议的声明和斯科贝尔琴院士答记者问,比较能看懂了。对中国来说,这是个新问题。现在是原子时代,原子能不论用于和平或者用于战争,都必须懂得才行。我们必须要掌握原子能。在这方面,我们很落后,但是有苏联的帮助,我们有信心、有决心能够赶上去。李四光部长、钱三强所长他们讲,赶上去的可能性是存在的,尤其是有苏联这样热心的帮助。苏联部长会议已经公开发表声明,这种公开是必要的。原子能现在已经成为常识,世界到处在议论。帝国主义在叫嚣原子战争,我们要把它戳穿,应该使全世界的人民知道,原子能如果为和平建设服务,就可以造福人类,如果为战争服务,就是毁灭人类。苏联部长会议声明中决定给予其他国家以科学、技术和工业上的帮助,而且正在考虑它所能够援助国家的范围。这使全世界人民看清楚了原子能问题,使全世界人民好似当年对蒸气机那样地重视。如果连对原子能的认识都不够,哪里有信心和勇气来制止原子战争、促进原子能的和平利用呢?原子武器的力量到底怎么样?有许多人不清楚。因此,在世界上就产生了两种态度:一种是漠视,一种是恐怖。我们中国人民,觉得原子弹没有什么了不起,是藐视的。漠视不对,而世界上更多的人则是恐怖。美国是产生原子武器和氢武器的国家,但在美国就非常恐怖。美国帝国主义叫嚣原子战争,首先被吓倒的不是我们,而是他们自己。美国管这个事情的国防部部长福莱斯特尔,一九四九年,听到苏联掌握了原子武器,就精神失常,跳楼自杀了。在西方国家中,对原子武器多是恐怖的。上星期五,毛主席接见一位外国大使时候,那位大使把原子弹说得非常凶,说有几个氢弹投在中国,中国差不多就完了。我说:人是活的,不是死的,原子弹危害最厉害的是工业集中、人口集中的国家。毛主席说:原子弹顶厉害也不过是把地球打穿,如果能把地球打穿,从中国打进去,从地球那面冒出来,那面正好是美国。第二次世界大战全部死伤不到一亿人,如果再来一次战争,就算中国一国伤亡到第二次世界大战的全部死伤人数,那我们还有五亿多人。美国想用恐怖吓倒我们,但是吓不倒我们。在台湾问题上,他就想用战争威胁来吓倒我们,但并没有把我们吓倒。

从积极方面说,我们要使广大人民了解原子能,要进行广泛的教育和认真的工作。去年有个朋友对我说:我们是不是可以宣布一下我们也掌握了原子武器?我说:那何必呢?我们要实事求是,没有掌握就是没有掌握。掌握原子能不是非常困难的。我们有苏联的帮助,只要我们认真工作,我们是能够掌握原子能的。

……

从积极方面来说,我们要公开地进行教育,认真地进行工作,积极促进原子能的和平利用。从消极方面来说,我们要号召人民起来,反对使用原子武器、反对进行原子战争。积极方面和消极方面结合起来,现在要进行以下几方面的工作:

(一)开展一个运动。十九日在维也纳举行的世界和平理事会常委会议通过了告全世界人民书,号召人民起来禁止使用原子武器,禁止制造原子武器。当时约里奥·居里、郭沫若等都签了名,并决定在全世界展开签名运动。我国要支持这个签名运动。过去两次签名运动,我国人民都有很大的反应,这次签名运动将有更大的反应。人民是要求和平、反对原子战争的。西方人民,现在还被压迫着,苏联和各人民民主国家已解放了的人民,要推动这个运动。我国人多,每次签名都是很大的数目,他们都希望我们起推动作用。今年五月准备在赫尔辛基召开世界和平代表大会,我们准备在二月开始进行签名运动。签名是集体的,在农村可以采取开群众大会举手表决的方式,一方面拥护苏联帮助中国和平利用原子能,另一方面,反对制造和使用原子武器。这个签名运动,可以同其他工作结合起来进行。现在台湾问题在联合国的议程上闹得很凶,我们一定要解放台湾,反对美国武装干涉,这要对全国人民进行动员。另外,二月份开始在农村进行征集新兵的工作,这是从志愿兵制转变为义务兵役制的开始,也需要动员。可以把这些工作结合在一起进行。这个签名运动,由中国和平大会领导。

(二)进行原子能教育。这是过去没有的,我们许多领导干部都不懂,请科学院主持这项工作。首先是科学院开会统一自己的认识,现在已经开了小会,还要开大会。第二,组织原子能和平利用讲座。先从高级干部组织起,发表的文件中,我们有些名词都不懂,又怎能和平利用原子能。请钱三强、周培源、钱伟长、赵仲尧讲讲,讲时把它录下音来,在全国进行这方面的教育。第三,编些通俗的小册子,苏联有些书,翻译过来也不一定都能用,人家水平高。刚才有同志问我,编的时候要不要分高级和初级,我看可以不分,我们现在对原子能的知识还没有什么高级和初级之分。第四,写些文章登在报上,表示欢迎苏联对我国和平利用原子能的帮助,反对美国叫嚣使用原子武器。对照起来是大有材料,苏联把原子堆用于发电,而美国就不搞这个,美国资本家就不同意。他们电站很多,如果用原子能发电,资本家的利润就要受到很大的影响,所以他们用在军事方面,这样军火资本家就可以得到很大的利润。最近艾森豪威尔对国会的咨文中说,要把原子能用于小型潜航艇上。这不是很好的对照吗?第五,要集中一批学生,转到学习物理方面的专业。我们的专家,在世界水平上不算高,但有几位也不容易,中国搞这方面研究的人少极了。过去分配学生时注意不够,今天注意了就要改变。杨秀峰、龚子荣都在这里,以后要给些好学生。过去给的学生不懂科学质量不好,政治质量也不好。和平利用原子能虽然公开地进行宣传,但工作还是秘密的,所以科学质量和政治质量都要好。各部派到国外去的留学生,回国后,科学院如果要,有优先权。分配到大学物理系、化学系、数学系也要选好的去,过去没有提倡,今天要提倡,没有足够数量的人是不成的。苏联发表的声明中说,帮助我们建设并提供广泛的帮助,这样至少需要三百到五百的专门人才,只现有的人数是不够的,必须培养。今年送进学校虽然过四年五年才能用,这也好。在大学工科方面也要增加这方面的科系。高等教育部应批准清华大学增设应用物理系。杨秀峰部长,你懂不懂原子能(杨秀峰部长答:不懂。)不懂也得去听听课,不懂原子能就不会很热爱。第六,要把现在的原子物理专家逐渐从行政工作中抽出来。物理专家的组织才能都很强,钱三强是科学院的秘书长,又是青联的副主席,钱伟长是清华大学的教务长,周培源是北京大学的教务长,在浙江大学有个物理专家,叫胡启明,担任副教务长,调了好久调不来,这次要下命令调来,从行政部门把他们“解放”出来。如果找不到适当的人选做教务长,当个名誉教务长也可以嘛。总之要号召专家归队,各位如果知道有专长的人可以推荐,不要瞒起来。

(三)认真地进行工作。要促进和平利用原子能,就要严肃、认真地工作,这是要保密的,现在国家已正在进行中。如果不进行广泛的教育,就不可能取得成绩。铀矿是要保密的,但什么样的才是铀矿,这是需要大家知道的,要慢慢学起来,不然采矿的见到了铀矿不懂得,那是不行的。钻探队,地质部有两万多人,燃料工业部有四万人,重工业部有两万人,他们遇到铀矿的石头都应知道。这是常识,不在人民中进行教育是不对的,要使大家的眼光都亮一些,发现以后,当然就要保密,要区别一般和保密的界限。认真研究业务是少数人的工作,但要反对使用原子武器那是几万万人的事情,要扩大原子能的教育也是几百万人的事情。