Reluctant Restraint: The Evolution of China's Nonproliferation Policies and Practices, 1980-2004

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Reluctant Restraint: The Evolution of China's Nonproliferation Policies and Practices, 1980-2004
By Evan S. Medeiros
Stanford University Press, 2007
376 pp. $65.00

Specialists agree that China has largely come into compliance with the international nonproliferation regime, but they disagree about why. Once a proliferator, China signed the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty in 1992 and the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty in 1996; today, it is promoting North Korean denuclearization in the six-party talks. Medeiros argues that the driving force in the evolution of Chinese policy was persistent, and often coercive, U.S. diplomacy that, over the course of a quarter century, counterbalanced China's financial and political incentives for proliferation, changed China's view of its own strategic interest, and (with nongovernmental involvement) helped China build the specialist community needed to implement its commitments. China's changing strategic situation was also a factor, as growing involvement around the world gave Beijing a stake in the stability of distant regions. Also important were changes in the normative views of Chinese policymakers, who formerly viewed proliferation as a natural right of states. One lesson of Medeiros' analysis is that the United States can get China to change its behavior if it works hard enough but that it is easier to do so if the new behavior serves China's interests better than the old. China's policies changed more completely on nuclear weapons than on missiles and missile technology, which until recently, at least, China has continued to supply to its core partners Iran and Pakistan. (The book does not cover chemical or biological weapons, although China has acceded to the treaties banning each.) On the whole, Medeiros sees a rising China as increasingly aware of its stake in international stability.

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