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China’s evolving nuclear 
export control regime

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The Chinese nuclear industry is actively pursuing international trade under China’s new “Go Global” policy. This development could strain Chinese nuclear export control systems in the coming decades. This paper investigates the evolution of the Chinese nuclear export control regime from the late 1970s to the present, describes the current state of the Chinese export control system, and investigates recent Chinese efforts to build a more robust system. It finds that although the Chinese strategic export control systems have grown tremendously since they first took shape and the capacity of the government to implement these controls has grown as well, significant improvements in both the legal basis for the controls and the capacity of institutions involved are still needed, including in how current laws define exports, in how government bodies are equipped to investigate violations, and in how violations are prosecuted. The Ministry of the Commerce is preparing a new “Export Control Law” that is expected to come into effect soon and to provide the basis for more robust controls that address many of the deficiencies identified above. The Chinese government’s growing commitment to undertaking its international obligations and safeguarding the peaceful use of nuclear energy provides reason for optimism, but in the near term, the effectiveness of these corrective efforts will depend on the completion, implementation, and enforcement of the new law.

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