By Wu Jinhuai
Ambassador Zhang Jun, Permanent Representative of China to the United Nations, deposited China's Instrument of Accession to the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) to UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on July 6, 2020. As per the provision of the treaty, the treaty will enter into force for China 90 days after the deposit of the Instrument of Accession.
Wang Yi, Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister, announced at the UN Assembly last September that China had commenced the procedures for joining the ATT. Within less than a year, China has completed all domestic legal procedures for the accession with high efficiency, which fully demonstrates its resolve and sincerity for supporting multilateralism, maintaining international arms control regime, and building a community with a shared future for mankind.
The ATT is the first international treaty under the UN that regulates the trade of conventional weapons and aims to establish an international system for conventional arms control and suppress and hopefully eradicate illicit arms deal. As a permanent member of the UN Security Council, China has attached great importance to issues caused by the illicit transfer and abuse of conventional weaponry, endorsed the tenet and purposes of the ATT, and supported the adoption of necessary measures to regulate international arms trade and clamp down on illicit arms transfer.
China has a sound domestic foundation for joining the ATT. On the one hand, it has played a consistently constructive role in the international arms control system, actively performed the treaty-bound duties and obligations as a responsible major country, and advocated and led multilateral equity and justice in the world. On the other hand, China has long established a comprehensive and complete national military article management system in the last century, covering laws and regulations, lists of regulated items, and competent organs. This has ensured a normal managerial order of military product export.
China's policies and practices for management of military product export coincide with the tenet and purposes of the ATT. As a country engaged in normal military trade, it has been exercising stringent management of military export, and has established a system of relevant policies and regulations. Arms export policy of China strictly follows three principles: i) conducive to the legitimate self-defense capability of the recipient country; ii) not undermine peace, security and stability of the region concerned and the world as a whole; iii) non-interference in the internal affairs of the recipient country. Moreover, China only exports military articles to sovereign states, not non-state actors, which fully demonstrates China's high sense of responsibility in military article export.
The current international arms control and non-proliferation system is facing a rising challenge. China’s accession to the ATT will improve the treaty’s executive ability in international cooperation and aid, facilitate the normal operation of multilateral mechanisms on conventional arms control, and enhance the governing efficiency of the global arms control system.
The international situation is going through profound and complex changes, with the vacuum and chaos of governance worsening day by day. In particular, the US administration, enforcing its unilateralism, has retreated from a series of international treaties and organizations in recent years, including the Paris Agreement on climate change, UNESCO, and Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty, etc. Washington signed the ATT in 2013, but the Trump administration announced to quit the treaty on April 26, 2019, drawing extensive attention in the international community. US moves defying international rules and shirking international responsibilities are in no way conducive to effectively handling and resolving global issues. Still worse, they have dealt a serious blow to the global governance system and multilateral cooperation.
It is against such a background that China joined the ATT, a concrete step to help build a regulated and reasonable arms trade order that is bound to exert positive effects on enhancing the treaty’s universality and validity. This significant step manifests China’s important role as a stabilizer of the international system and order, as well as its firm resolve to support multilateral arms control mechanisms and safeguard international and regional peace and stability.
(The author is Director of the Non-proliferation and Strategic Trade Control, China Arms Control and Disarmament Association)