China and the Arms Trade Treaty: Prospects and challenges

 On 2 April 2013, the UN General Assembly passed a resolution to adopt the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) by a majority vote of 155 to 3. China was among the 22 states that abstained on the vote, with the failure to achieve consensus at the UN and the move to a majority vote to adopt the treaty cited as the main reason for China's position. Even though China did not cast a positive vote in the end, its position towards the ATT and its content has shifted significantly over the span of the negotiations.

This report examines the shifts in China’s position in the years leading up to the final UN vote; discusses the procedural, diplomatic, institutional and security factors that could influence China’s future decisions towards the ATT; and outlines three key issues on which further debate is needed. These are: the challenge of incorporating human rights and humanitarian provisions into Chinese law and practice; international disagreement as to what constitutes an ‘illicit’ transfer; and the different interests in, and pressures on, Chinese involvement in the arms trade.

Read more about our work on the Arms Trade Treaty here.

Read more about our China programme here.










“The Chinese government made a series of compromises during the ATT negotiations, demonstrating its willingness to shift its position.”

Anna Stavrianakis and He Yun