The Swords of China Into Plowshares
Part 1
Prof. Shimon Silman, RYAL Institute and Touro College

When discussing Swords Into Plowshares in China, as well as all matters pertaining to China, the issues are unique and complex. China has always isolated itself and done things its own way. It’s hard to say "isolated" when there’s about a billion people there, but on the other hand, their large population has enabled them to develop in their own way with minimum international interaction. This applies also to their nuclear weapons development which, after a short period of collaboration with Russia, they did mostly in isolation.

Thus the analysis of China vis-à-vis the Swords Into Plowshares conversion – which is called "the trend of History" by one group of Chinese physicists – is itself complex and requires careful consideration of exactly what Swords Into Plowshares means.

Not every non-military or even food-related use of military equipment is necessarily "Swords Into Plowshares." Consider, for example, a soldier on the battlefield in the middle of a cruel war. The soldier gets hungry and takes out an apple from his food bag. Suddenly he realizes that he can use his sword not just to kill the enemy but also to cut his apple. Do we point to this and say, "Aha! Swords Into Plowshares"!? In every country there were always "spin-offs" or civilian uses of military technology but this was not Swords Into Plowshares.

So lets go back to the original sicha of exactly nine years ago this week, the sicha of Shabbos Parshas Mishpatim, 5752, in which the Rebbe Melech HaMoshiach explains in detail how the fulfillment of this Messianic prophecy of Yishayahu (Isaiah) has now begun to be fulfilled. Referring to the meeting of the heads of state of the major countries of the world at the United Nations at the end of January, 1992, Melech HaMoshiach writes, "Since these days heads of state of the world’s countries are making decisions and announcements regarding the reduction and dismantling of weapons and the increase in matters required for the maintenance of the economies of the individual countries and the world as a whole – which is the content of the prophecy ‘They shall beat their swords into plowshares,’ dismantling the instruments of war to produce from them instruments for working the ground, ‘earth from whence comes forth bread’ (Job 28, 5) – this is a clear sign of the beginning of the fulfillment of this prophecy in the true and complete Redemption of Moshiach Tzidkeinu" (italics in original sicha).

We see from this quote (and others later in the sicha) that the content or the meaning of this prophecy is an overall shift in resources from military to economic uses. This comes as a result of reduced threat perception on the part of the countries involved, as we see from the Radak quoted earlier in the sicha: "There will be no war between one nation and another because [Moshiach] will bring peace among them. Thus they will not need instruments of war and they will beat them to make from them instruments for working the ground" (italics not in original). We might say that the highest form of Swords Into Plowshares occurs when the peaceful conditions will bring about a change of attitude on the part of the countries of the world. They will not feel threatened by each other. They will feel secure so they will not need instruments of war. It is within this framework that all Swords Into Plowshares developments should be analyzed. We will review the development of nuclear weapons technology in China and its conversion to peaceful uses, but first let’s see what the Chinese themselves have to say on the matter.


In the introduction to their paper entitled "The Practice and Progress of Defense Conversion in China," three professors from the China Academy of Engineering Physics write:

The peaceful use of military technology represents the trend of history. The fundamental element of the conversion of military technologies to civilian ones for each country is to reconfigure the factors of production in peacetime, which consists of land and natural resources, capital and labor, science, technology and information, etc. The purpose of conversion is to make an efficient contribution of post-war economic recovery and construction which is determined by national defense, economy, strategy of science and technology development, industry policy and labor distribution. Defense conversion is a fundamental issue that is related to world peace, disarmament, international security, and economy development. The influence of the conversion has been more significant after the cold war; and a lot of countries have paid attention to it. Many scientists and outstanding people have been working hard on promoting the defense conversion.

The most important aspect of peaceful use of defense science and technology is its development and applications. It is a common demand of people of the world and the wishes of most scientists and engineers to convert the advanced military technologies to productive forces, to promote national economy development and bring benefits to human beings. The national condition of China determines that the objective of Chinese conversion should be to develop productive forces and meet the increasing demand for material and civilization development and applications of advanced defense technology in civilian area will significantly promote the economy, technology and society, and bring new social culture and material prosperity. In order to be converted to productive forces, science and technology must be effectively converted into products that meet the demand.

In the mid-fifties, Mao Zedong required that military industries have dual-productive abilities for military and civilian. However, defense conversion in China began actually in the late 1970’s. Deng Ziaoping proposed that military science and technology should serve the national economy, and then a new era of the combination of military with civilian started. Chinese military industries have now achieved preliminary success in changing the status from sole military production to a combination of military with civilian production.

In the early 1990’s, the output value from civil products had counted more than 70 percent of the total of military enterprises. For example, the annual production of color TV sets has increased from ten thousand to twelve million during the past ten years, in which military enterprises, Changhong and Panda took about 30 percent of the total. Almost one half of all civilian motorcycles were produced by enterprises of military sector. With further reform and openness to abroad, Chinese defense conversion is now accelerating to a new phase. A recent investigation in more than two hundred defense institutions, by China Defense Science and Technology Information Center, shows that these institutions have set up a new management structure and are now in a new stage of converting new technologies into civilian applications. Up to now, more than 84 percent institutions have had their defense programs and other programs managed separately. The income from civilian products counts for more than 41 per cent of the total. A series of high-tech products have been produced consisting of computers, communication equipment, auto-control system, electrical-mechanical apparatus and transporting vehicles, etc.

Nuclear industries in china used to develop in an enclosed style of management. With the emphasis on the transition of the national economy, we have made a significant progress in nuclear power, application of radioactive isotopes and radiation technology, development of high-tech civil products, controlling of nuclear waste, and environment protection technology development. According to a statistic in 1992, the output value of civil products took about 61 percent of the total of nuclear industries.

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Do we point to this and say, "Aha! Swords Into Plowshares"!?

In every country there were always "spin-offs" or civilian uses of military technology...


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