Sino-Soviet Nuclear Collaboration Revisionism?

In a review of Thomas C. Reed, and Danny B. Stillman‘s new book, The Nuclear Express: A Political History of the Bomb and its Proliferation, William Broad writes that

Moscow freely shared its atomic thefts with Mao Zedong, China’s leader. The book says that Klaus Fuchs, a Soviet spy in the Manhattan Project who was eventually caught and, in 1959, released from jail, did likewise. Upon gaining his freedom, the authors say, Fuchs gave the mastermind of Mao’s weapons program a detailed tutorial on the Nagasaki bomb. A half-decade later, China surprised the world with its first blast.

This doesn’t jibe with what I remember about the relationship at all. Perhaps I’m overreacting to the word “freely,” but there was considerable resistance on the Soviet side to full cooperation with the development of Chinese atomic bomb and missile technology.1 In most accounts that I’ve read, that foot-dragging was a significant element in the ultimate break between the two powers, and the Chinese had to work from the bits and pieces the Soviets gave them2 combined with knowledge gleaned by Chinese who studied in the US and France.

This doesn’t seriously call into question the basic thesis of the book, which is that nuclear weapons technology spreads by diffusion — usually with some element of theft, subversion or treason3 — and that China has been a major proliferator in the post-Mao era.4 Reed and Stillman assert that

China in 1982 made a policy decision to flood the developing world with atomic know-how. Its identified clients include Algeria, Pakistan and North Korea. Alarmingly, the authors say one of China’s bombs was created as an “export design” that nearly “anybody could build.” The blueprint for the simple plan has traveled from Pakistan to Libya and, the authors say, Iran.

That puts China square in the middle of one of the most important and troubling trends of the last quarter-century.

  1. See, for example, Sergei Goncharenko, “Sino-Soviet Military Cooperation,”, Brothers in Arms: the Rise and Fall of the Sino-Soviet Alliance, 1945-1963, ed. Odd Arne Westad, Stanford University Press, 1998, pp. 141-164. []
  2. See, for example, Ji Qiang, “The scientists making the atomic bombs” [PDF], pp. 130-132, which describes Soviet help in the 1950s but that aid quietly disappears from the narrative around ’59. []
  3. This isn’t a new idea; I’ve been telling my students for years that the United States is the only nation to have actually invented the atomic bomb. But their level of detail and access to new sources sounds pretty substantial. []
  4. The French are the other major nexus, having aided the Chinese and provided the Israelis with most of their technology, and Israel has gone on to share it with others, most notably South Africa. []

Contra Hip-Hop (Xunzi on Music)

Filed under: — Alan Baumler @ 12:11 am

As I discussed last time, Xunzi clearly saw ritual as important, but important in very different way from his predecessors. Yes, a gentleman should perform rituals as if he was actually serving the dead, but he should not think he was actually interacting with ‘real’ beings. That type of talk was for commoners. Of course it was also for the Shang kings, who’s power came explicitly from their ability to use ritual to interact with and get favors from the ancestors and the powers. So for Xunzi ritual still matters, but not in the all-encompassing magical way it did before.

To find the real magic in Rites and Music in Xunzi you need to look at Music, which is Chapter 20. Here we do find a transcendent magical thing that can change the world. You can see this in at least two ways. One is that music is dangerous if you get it wrong. Bad music is connected to a bad age and seems to help make it bad.

The influence of music and sound on man is very profound, and the transformations they produce in him can be very rapid. Thus, the Ancient Kings were assiduous in creating proper forms. …. If music spoils and seduces toward wickedness, then the people will become dissipated and indolent and will be mean-spirited and base. Where they are dissipated and indolent, there is disorder; where they are mean-spirited and base, there is conflict. Where there is disorder and conflict, the army is weak and the city walls are broken through, so that enemy states can threaten the existence of the state. When this situation prevails, the Hundred Clans feel insecure even in their own homes, are
discontent with their native villages, and are dissatisfied with their superiors. Thus, casting aside ritual and music and allowing evil songs to develop is the root of danger and territorial encroachment for the country and of insult and dishonor for the ruler. Thus, the Ancient Kings esteemed ritual and music and despised evil songs.

If people are exposed to bad music the effects are….bad

Men wear brightly colored clothing; their demeanor is softly feminine; their manners are lascivious; their minds are bent on profit; their conduct lacks consistency; their music is wicked; and their patterns and decorations are gravely in error and gaudy.1 They nurture the needs of the living without measure, but they send off their dead in a niggardly manner and with blackly impure principles. They despise ritual and moral principles, and prize instead valor and feats of strength. When they are poor, they become robbers; when they are rich, they become predators. An orderly age is the opposite of this.

The stuff about those kids today and their music goes back farther than you might have thought. The big difference from rites is that music is actually dangerous. Mis-perform a rite and nothing happens.2 Play bad music and the world is disordered. You can sort of see this in the status of people who do these things. In Xunzi (and Lu Buwei, who I am also reading right now) music masters seem to be people of considerable stature, while the guy who checks to see if you have the right kind of vessels out for a ritual is some sort of underling.

Next Lu Buwei on music and the other way it is magical. (Bet you can’t wait)

  1. Who understands those rap guys anyway? []
  2. In fact I’m not sure you can mis-perform a rite for Xunzi. If the point is to appear gravely sincere as long as you screw up with dignity you should be fine. []

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