Stop Chinese nuclear tests

Issue 

Stop Chinese nuclear tests

The testing of a nuclear bomb by the Chinese government on August 17 is a stupid and reactionary step, one which is dangerous to the people of China and of the whole world.

While aggressive imperialist countries such as the US, Britain and France maintain nuclear weapons, China certainly has a right to maintain a sufficient nuclear arsenal to deter attack. The US in particular has in the past threatened the use of nuclear weapons against China.

But it is a serious mistake to imagine that the ability to retaliate with nuclear weapons is the sole, or even main, obstacle to a nuclear attack by imperialism, particularly in the longer term. If that were the case, the US would have used nuclear bombs against countries like Cuba and Libya long ago.

The main obstacle to the use of nuclear weapons is the fear of the reaction of the peoples of the world, who rightly regard the use of such weapons as an unspeakable atrocity condemning those who even contemplate it. The main deterrent to the use of nuclear weapons is political, not military.

China's continuation of nuclear testing, particularly at a time when much of the world still expects a reduction of militarism following the end of the Cold War, can only undermine that political deterrent. It contributes to the credibility of the propaganda that nuclear weapons are merely another bomb, whose use is permissible in some circumstances. And it shows utter contempt for the opinions of the working people of the world, who want an end to the nuclear danger. Whatever knowledge Chinese scientists gained from the tests cannot possibly compensate for the damage to China's political defence.

The Chinese government argues, accurately, that it has not undertaken as many tests as the other nuclear powers. But does anyone imagine it desirable that it should? China, having conducted 43 tests, has almost caught up with Britain's 45. Should it now strive to overtake France's 192 tests, or even Russia's 715 or the United States' 1015, in order to demonstrate the superiority of Chinese "socialism"?

And if it's desirable for China to catch up in this field, why shouldn't every country in the world do the same? In fact, one of the first results of China's latest test will be to take some of the political pressure off French President Chirac over the planned tests at Moruroa. (He still has 823 explosions to go before he catches up with the US.)

Nuclear disarmament is a prerequisite for a future for humanity. It will be brought about by the sort of massive worldwide outrage that we can begin to glimpse in the response to France's announced nuclear test plans. It is tragic for the world and for China that its government should choose to stand against the growing demand for an end to nuclear tests and nuclear weapons.

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