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Chemical and Biological Weapons

China is widely reported to have active programs related to the development of chemical and biological weapons, although essentially no details of these programs have appeared in the open literature.

China is believed to have an advanced chemical warfare program that includes research and development, production and weaponization capabilities. Its current inventory is believed to include the full range of traditional chemical agents. It also has a wide variety of delivery systems for chemical agents to include artillery rockets, aerial bombs, sprayers, and short-range ballistic missiles. Chinese forces have conducted defensive CW training and are prepared to operate in a contaminated environment. As China's program is further integrated into overall military operations, its doctrine, which is believed to be based in part on Soviet-era thinking, may reflect the incorporation of more advanced munitions for CW agent delivery. China has signed and ratified the CWC.

On 30 December 1996 the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress China ratified the Chemical Weapons Convention [CWC]. Previous, dual-use chemical-related transfers to Iran's chemical weapons program indicate that, at a minimum, China's chemical export controls are not operating effectively enough to ensure compliance with China's CWC obligation not to assist anyone in any way to acquire chemical weapons. In March 1997 Israeli authorities arrested an Israeli businessman, Nahum Manbar, for allegedly selling Chinese chemical weapon components to Iran.

On May 21, 1997, pursuant to the Chemical and Biological Weapons Control and Warfare Elimination Act of 1991, the US Government imposed trade sanctions on five Chinese individuals, two Chinese companies, and one Hong Kong company for knowingly and materially contributing to Iran's chemical weapons program. These individuals and companies were involved in the export of dual-use chemical precursors and/or chemical production equipment and technology. The Chinese companies were the Nanjing Chemical Industries Group (NCI) and the Jiangsu Yongli Chemical Engineering and Technology Import/Export Corp.

In 1939 the Japanese army established the Unit 731 germ-warfare research center in Harbin, where Japanese medical experts experimented on Chinese, Soviet, Korean, British and other prisoners.

China possesses an advanced biotechnology infrastructure as well as the requisite munitions production capabilities necessary to develop, produce and weaponize biological agents. Although China has consistently claimed that it has never researched or produced biological weapons, it is nonetheless believed likely that it retains a biological warfare capability begun before acceding to the BWC. China is commonly considered to have an active biological warfare program, including dedicated research and development activities funded and supported by the Government for this purpose. There is essentially no open source data on the subject of Chinese BW activities, and many legitimate research programs use similar, if not identical equipment and facilities.

Sources and Resources

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Updated August 1, 2008
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