Shanghai meeting on arms control

On 4-5 December 2019 Pugwash and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences organized a discussion meeting in Shanghai as part of the ongoing project “Achieving Strategic Stability: A New Era of Great Powers Dialogue”. The meeting was supported and hosted by the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences. Five American scholars and former officials joined 20 Chinese scholars and former officials for a dialogue over two days, broadly centred on the strategic relationship of the US and China, but with particular focus on the status and future possibilities of arms control, as well as regional proliferation challenges.

Summary of Recommendations and Ideas to Develop

  • Trust, predictability, and dialogue among the great powers are dangerously low, an environment which threatens strategic stability and heralds renewed arms racing. It is firmly in the national interests of the US, Russia and China to lead on avoiding a return to Cold War-era arms accumulation through engaging one another in meaningful and frank discussion.
  • “To talk is not weak, it is to shape the future to your own benefit” – participants emphasized the necessity of keeping both formal and informal lines of communication open in order to promote clear mutual understanding of perceptions and risks.
  • Missile defense and INF-range systems hold huge destabilizing potential and the US, Russia, and China should urgently explore a variety of measures to cap them. These could include:
    • A focus on system-type limits; for example, an outright ban on portable INF.
    • Limits on ranges or mutual assurances regarding stationing of new systems.
    • Exploring asymmetric ceilings that can account for each state’s security needs.
  • All effort should be made by the US and Russia to ensure that New START is extended beyond its current 2021 deadline, an outcome that is also in China’s interests. At the same time, parties could explore how China could join New START inspections as a “privileged observer” to provoke thinking and dialogue on a future multilateral arrangement.
  • P-5 States could present individual nuclear doctrines and thinking as the basis for a renewed dialogue under the auspices of the 2020 NPT Review Conference.
  • P-5 States could announce a joint affirmation of a testing moratorium as a stepping stone toward CTBT ratification.

Full report of Shanghai meeting: The Sino-US Nuclear Strategic Relationship and International Security [pdf]