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Statement by Ambassador Fu Cong at the Plenary Meeting of the Conference on Disarmament
2017/02/22

Mr. President,

Today, in connection with agenda item 5, namely, the new types of weapons of mass destruction and new system of such weapons, I would like to share with our distinguished colleagues China’s views on the challenges to international security posed by the development of science and technology.

Mr. President,

Since the end of the Cold War, especially the start of the 21st century, science and technology have been leaping forward at an unprecedented pace. Space technologies have made great strides and are applied extensively. More countries and entities now possess space-faring capabilities. Internet-based information technologies have penetrated into almost all aspects of human life. Artificial intelligence has become more mature. Robots are more widely adopted in industrial production and daily life. Progress in gene technology and bio-science has brought boundless hope to medicine, health care and agriculture. The emergence of nanotechnology and other new technologies related to materials has made the impossible possible. These advances have greatly facilitated global economic and social development, enriched and improved the quality of human life, and change profoundly the way we live. Now, the progress in science and technology are ushering in the fourth industrial revolution. Never before have the prospects of a much-improved

human life been so promising.

However, the development of science and technology is a double-edged sword. While improving human life, it also gives rise to numerous risks and challenges. To compete for military supremacy, some countries are vigorously developing outer space weapons, which will increase the risks of the weaponization of and an arms race in the outer space. Some countries have made cyberspace a new battleground, made tremendous input in the research in and development of the means for cyber warfare. Some have even put cyber weapons to actual use. A small number of countries have made the development and use of autonomous weapon systems, including killer robots, part of their military strategy. Moreover, the world has experienced several cross-border pandemic. The risks of abusing and misusing biochemical and genetic technologies are more prominent. Globalization and information technology have turned human society into a community of shared future. Science and technology have made this community very powerful and extremely vulnerable at the same time. As Professor Hawking repeatedly pointed out, artificial intelligence, genetic modification of viruses and other technologies will pose a great threat to mankind and even lead to its extinction.

Mr. President,

Weapons in the outer space and cyber space as well as autonomous and genetic weapons all go beyond the scope of traditional conventional weapons. Some of them have the obvious characteristics of weapons of mass destruction. The military application and weaponization of such technologies will have a far-reaching impact on international peace and security and on the process of arms control and disarmament.

First, it will change the international balance of power and upset international strategic balance and stability. Capitalizing on new technological advances, Some countries are vigorously developing new types of strategic forces. The increasingly blurred line between conventional and strategic weapons would further exacerbate an already fragile international strategic balance and stability. This trend, if unchecked, will not only lead to a new arms race, but also make the process of nuclear disarmament more difficult, and the goal of universal disarmament even more unattainable.

Second, it will lower the threshold of war and change the form of war. On the one hand, these new weapons are capable of long-distance missile strikes, at a low cost, with higher stealthiness, and inflicting fewer casualties, thus leading to a misconception that such weapons are more humane. These factors are likely to have some decision-makers make rash decision in the use of force. On the other hand, critical infrastructures of various countries are very much dependent on the internet. Using new types of weapons such as launching a cyber attack may result in large-scale disasters, even trigger a nuclear conflict accidentally. The development of such new weapons will also further widen the gap in defence capabilities between countries, and naturally increase the risk of proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.

Third, it will exacerbate the risk of terror attacks and increase the difficulty for the fight against terrorism. In a world of globalization and information technology, the threshold of acquiring dual-use technologies is getting lower. Currently, terrorist and extremist forces are spreading across countries with their increased technical capabilities. It is already a reality that terrorist groups are using the internet to spread extremist ideas, raise funds, recruit personnel and engage in hacking activities. This poses serious challenges to the international community. Should terrorist forces obtain access to advanced artificial intelligence and biochemical technologies, the consequences will be even more unthinkable.

Fourth, it will endanger human survival and development. Outer space and cyberspace are the common wealth of mankind. If the trend towards weaponization is left unchecked, it will cause inestimable damage to the future development of mankind. Many scientists believe that, when the advancement of artificial intelligence crosses a certain threshold, we may face a dangerous situation where machine will control human beings. Once the high-risk and sensitive biotechnologies are abused, there will be devastating consequences for the species, the ecological system and the survival of mankind.

Fifth, it will cause a series of legal and ethical issues. It is difficult to trace the sources and attribute responsibilities of cyber attacks. The difficulty in distinguishing hacking by individuals from state behaviour may easily lead to conflicts between states. Fully autonomous weapons systems have brought afore the question of whether to delegate to machine the decision to kill. In biotechnology field, cross-species genetic engineering not only poses a security risk, but also challenges traditional ethics and morality.

Mr. President,

The above-mentioned risks brought about by technological development deserve our high attention. In terms of international security and arms control, we believe that, to bring the risks and challenges from technological development under control, efforts could be made in the following areas:

First, we should carry out preventive diplomacy in arms control. The international community should establish, as soon as possible, authoritative review mechanisms for scientific development, which will assess the prospects and risks of the military application of new technologies. On this basis, negotiations should be conducted to set precautionary international norms to restrict or prohibit the military application of new technologies.

Second, we should enhance the regulation of scientific research activities. We should timely draw up codes of conduct for scientists, taking into consideration the needs for scientific and technological development, human security, ethics and other factors, thus bringing high-risk research activities and conduct of scientists under reasonable control.

Third, we should establish an effective regime of non-proliferation. States should continue to improve legislation and mechanisms and enhance the management and control of sensitive technologies and materials. The international community should strengthen cooperation and establish a non-discriminatory and universally participated export control mechanism, and take effective steps to prevent extremist and terrorist forces from acquiring and using high-risk, dual-use technologies and materials.

Mr. President,

It is the inherent task of the international arms control and disarmament process to deal with the challenges arising from the development of science and technology and to prevent new forms of arms race. As the sole multilateral negotiating mechanism on disarmament, the CD has an unshirkable responsibility in this regard. Unfortunately, for nearly twenty years, the CD has remained in a deep deadlock, turning a blind eye and doing nothing about the new challenges brought about by the development of science and technology.

As a Chinese saying goes, to prevent is always better than to remedy. In fact, in comparison to those old and protracted issues, new issues are not only more urgent but also relatively easier to tackle. It is more desirable to take up new topics in light of the new circumstances rather than clinging to the old issues that have been stagnant for decades. This is not only conducive to giving timely and proper responses to new challenges, but also to opening up new windows of opportunity to lift the CD out of its decades-long impasse.

China is committed to its path of peaceful development and the cause of international arms control and disarmament. China stands ready to work with other countries to revitalize the CD's work and remains committed to preventing an arms race in the high-tech field, while maximizing the benefits of scientific and technological development to human society.

Thank you, Mr. President.

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