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Digital Archive International History Declassified

December 10, 1964


This document was made possible with support from the Carnegie Corporation of New York (CCNY), Henry Luce Foundation

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    Cable from the Chinese Embassy in Switzerland describing the efforts of the United States, the West and the Soviet Union to downplay China's nuclear test.
    "Cable from the Chinese Embassy in Switzerland, 'China's Nuclear Test has caused the American Imperialists to Panic'," December 10, 1964, History and Public Policy Program Digital Archive, PRC FMA 113-00398-01, 38-40. Translated by Caixia Lu.
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Cable Received by the [Chinese] Foreign Ministry

Level: Urgent

Received from the Switzerland Desk

Foreign Ministry Incoming (64) Hai (537)

China's Nuclear Test has caused the American Imperialists to Panic

To the Foreign Ministry:


The success of our atomic test was an event that shook the world, and it has caused the American imperialists to panic, while the technological standards that this explosion showed, as well as the speed with which we had developed nuclear weapons on our own had given the United States a huge shock. They would have expected China to eventually produce nuclear weapons but the high technological standards had totally exceeded their expectations. After conducting tests, the Americans now know that we are using uranium 235 as our raw material, and feel that our technological standards and pace of development have surpassed that of France. They estimate that we will detonate our second atomic bomb within few months, and are trying our best to develop a medium-range ballistic missile, while the issue of the delivery system is also not a difficult one to resolve.

The time required by China to develop a complete nuclear weapons system will be much shorter than what the West anticipates. To deal with this “serious threat” and the new circumstances, the United States is now working on a Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty that will cover underground testing. According to a New York Times report, the comprehensive nuclear test ban and the non-proliferation of nuclear weapons was “one of the main issues” discussed at the United States and United Kingdom leadership summit. The Times reported that Johnson and Wilson both felt that the “proliferation of nuclear weapons poses the most serious threat to peace”, apart from studying the “impact of China’s nuclear capability to the West’s overall strategy”, both parties were also prepared to “adopt new steps in the area of disarmament”. The United States’ conspiracy is obviously targeted at China. Its past policy of stopping China from acquiring nuclear weapons had failed and it is now trying in vain to prevent China from further developing its nuclear strike capability by freezing it at current levels, so as to maintain its nuclear advantage and continue its policy of nuclear blackmail. The United States had already conducted a series of nuclear tests and had stepped up on its underground tests after signing the treaty between three countries and it has already gained the necessary technological data needed to improve tactical nuclear weapons. It won’t suffer much loss militarily if it stops now. Not to mention that the pact is only a piece of paper, which can be torn up anytime when necessarily, with no one being bound by it. The New York Times suggested that due to improvements in seismometers, the number of actual site visits within the Soviet Union borders can be cut down. In the past, the Soviet Union was only agreeable to three such visits annually while the United States insisted on having seven, and no agreement has been reached concerning this. This point of disagreement is no longer a difficult issue to resolve. American officials feel that “the nuclear test ban treaty is very likely to be expanded to include underground testing.” Such attitudes and prodding by the United States suggests that it is hoping to stop the underground nuclear tests from which it had already garnered sufficient information in exchange for China to not conduct any more nuclear tests. If we refuse to do so, they will checkmate us by saying that we had gone against our stand when critiquing the treaty between three countries. It will achieve its aim of hitting us politically. The United States is even attempting to sound out the new Soviet leadership and pull them over, and it is making use of China-Soviet differences to lure the Soviets toward the West, thus causing the contradictions between China and the Soviet Union to become even more acute. At the same time, it can deceive the masses by wielding the banner of peace, and garner the support of Asian, African and Latin American countries that harbor this illusion, so as to repair its worsening international reputation. But this conspiracy of the United States cannot deceive revolutionary people of the whole world, and socialist and left-wing nationalists democratic countries can also see through its plot easily. France will further state its opposition. The United States and the Soviet Union are unanimous in their desire to monopolize nuclear weapons. The Soviet Union has also raised the issue of a comprehensive nuclear test ban but after it signed the treaty between the three countries, its reputation has suffered and it is in an awkward position after our exposure of it. It will have to balance its political gains and losses if it wishes to join the United States in its conspiracy. In addition, the Soviet Union is still behind the Unite States in terms of underground testing. We still need to observe the Soviet Union’s specific considerations on this issue. All in all, after our nuclear explosion, the fact that the Soviet Union has just changed its leadership, that the United States has a ploy to limit our development of nuclear weapons and collusion between the United States and Soviet Union are all worth paying close attention to. 

[Chinese] Embassy in Switzerland

10 December 1964