The history of cooperation between the USSR and China in the field of nuclear technology

The history of cooperation between the USSR and China in the field of nuclear technology

Washington's atomic phobias also affect the interests of Moscow, traditionally maintaining good relations with Tehran and Pyongyang. True in stories There has already been a case in which the indulgence of Moscow by the ambitions of the potential owner of the “nuclear baton” brought a headache to our country.

45 years ago, from July 31 to August 3, 1958 held a secret visit to Beijing by Nikita Khrushchev and USSR Defense Minister Rodion Malinovsky. China, the “rogue” country of the 50 model, insistently asked the “older brother” to share nuclear production technologies weapons and nuclear submarines.


But already at the beginning of 60's, internal tensions between China and the USSR escalated into open confrontation. A decade later, in 1969, Chinese soldiers killed Soviet border guards on Damansky Island. The Vremya Novostey newspaper publishes a study by a reputable Russian synologue on how China achieved its dream of a nuclear bomb. The material used previously unpublished data from Russian archives.

Mao Zedong believed that the Chinese army should have an atomic bomb. "In the current world, we cannot do without this thing if we want it not to be offended," he said. Pilot believed that the West "with disdain" refers to China, because it "does not have an atomic bomb, but there are only hand grenades."

"The atomic bomb is not so scary"

As early as in the spring of 1949, six months before the official proclamation of the PRC, the Chinese Communist leadership sent to Europe to participate in the physics conference of the physicist Qian Sanqian. His goal was to acquire the necessary materials and equipment for the Institute of Modern Physics, which was carried out with the help of the French scientist Frederick Joliot-Curie.

In October, 1951-th Irene Joliot-Curie (Frederick's spouse) handed over to Chinese radiochemist Yang Zhensong 10 grams of radium salt, which has radioactive emission capability, to "support the Chinese people in atomic research." Frederic Joliot-Curie asked Yang Zhengsun to tell Mao Zedong that China "must have its own atomic bomb, it is not so terrible." Mao himself back in August 1946-st said that "an atomic bomb is a paper tiger that American reactionaries intimidate people with. It looks scary, but in fact is not at all terrible."

At the beginning of 1950, the Institute of Modern Physics appeared in the Academy of Sciences of the People's Republic of China, whose deputy director was Qian Sangqian. In the spring of 1953, the delegation of the Academy of Sciences of the People's Republic of China from 26 went to the USSR to expand their knowledge of nuclear technology. In preparation for welcoming guests, the President of the USSR Academy of Sciences, Academician Alexander Nesmeyanov, advised the Soviet authorities to exercise prudence and acquaint Qian Sanqian "only with some general scientific works without introducing into the course the problems that fall within the scope of the First Main Directorate" who oversaw Soviet nuclear research.

For the first time, Mao Zedong turned to Moscow with a request to help create nuclear weapons during Khrushchev’s stay in China in October 1954. Khrushchev made no promises and advised Mao to abandon the atomic project because China does not have the necessary industrial base and financial resources. However, in 1955 – 1958, the parties still signed several agreements on the development of the Chinese nuclear industry.

The 20 Agreement of January 1955 of the year provided for joint geological studies in Xinjiang and the development of uranium mines. In exchange, the PRC government pledged to supply surplus uranium to the USSR. Chinese, Soviet and Eastern European geologists began to study deposits of rare and non-ferrous metals in Xinjiang, as well as the search for uranium deposits throughout China. It turned out that China is well supplied with atomic raw materials. The first place in its reserves belongs to the north-west, where, in the area of ​​the city of Chuguchak, a complex of uranium mines began operating from 1957.

7, signed on April 1956, was a Soviet-Chinese agreement to assist in the construction of civilian and military facilities provided for the construction of a new railway from Aktogay to Lanzhou, enabling the delivery of equipment to the first nuclear weapons test center in Lobnor.

Quirky Mao and Khrushchev

Above the promising 12-year plan for the development of science in the 1956 – 1967 years worked the best minds of China. 640 scientists from the USSR were also involved in its creation. Among the main areas were the peaceful use of atomic energy, the study of reactive technology, the creation of semiconductor technology, the development of computers, as well as "special problems of a defense nature." To implement these ambitious plans, the Chinese government intended to "ask the USSR and the countries of people's democracy to render all-round and accelerated assistance in these matters." By that time, the USSR had undertaken to build about a hundred defense plants in China.

Among the priority requests to the Soviet government was a request to help develop the nuclear and defense industries. At the beginning of 1956, the CPC Central Committee decided to make rocket science and atomic research as key projects in the military sphere. Judging by the available documents, Khrushchev in 1954 – 1957 agreed only to cooperation in the field of the peaceful atom. Mao Zedong was not enough.


As Marshal Ne Rongzhen, head of the Chinese nuclear project, recalls, after the events of 1956 in Poland and Hungary, Khrushchev "became more compliant in providing complex technical assistance to China." In September 1957, the Chinese delegation went to Moscow for talks. Khrushchev, who had just gained the upper hand over Molotov and his supporters, very much wanted Mao Zedong to personally take part in the meeting of the communist and workers parties 1957 of the year in Moscow, thereby indirectly supporting Khrushchev. Mao skillfully used the situation, saying that he would come to Moscow only after signing a military-technical agreement, including the transfer to China of materials and models for the production of nuclear weapons and their means of delivery.

October 15 The 1957 agreement was signed. According to the Chinese historian Niu Jun, the USSR agreed to provide a mockup as well as drawings and documentation of the atomic bomb; however, he refused to give materials on the construction of submarines. In the first half of 1958, Soviet specialists began to arrive in China, responsible for the transfer of the atomic bomb model and the corresponding production technologies. According to Chinese data, Moscow also provided two short-range ground-to-ground missiles as samples.

By the middle of 1958, Chinese engineers prepared a hall where the atomic bomb's mechanism of action was to be modeled. But Soviet experts postponed the tests several times due to the low level of security.

The Soviet leadership was not in doubt about the decision to supply Mao with a nuclear bomb. Academician Abram Ioffe recalled: “From above there was an order to provide China with the most advanced projects that were only implemented in the USSR. Physicists and engineers who should have completed this task, understanding the political situation better than the authorities, tried to transfer the older projects. However, Zadikyan, Soviet adviser on atomic I’ve got them caught up with it and brought it up. As a result, they transferred the most advanced technology, and soon there was a break in relations with China. "

June 1958 of the year was the apogee of atomic cooperation between Beijing and Moscow, when the first heavy-water experimental nuclear reactor built with the active assistance of the USSR was put into operation at the Atomic Energy Institute of the Academy of Sciences of China. Speaking at a ceremonial rally dedicated to this event, Deputy Prime Minister Marshal Ne Rongzhen said: "We warn the American imperialists to come to their senses, since at present the atomic weapon is not their monopoly." At the same time, the construction of an experimental cyclotron was completed. “These two installations are the result of the great and invaluable assistance that the Soviet Union provided our country in its scientific and technological development in the field of atomic energy. Completing the construction of facilities means China’s entry into the era of atomic energy,” the Friendship weekly wrote in the summer of 1958. .

Diplomatic conversations about maritime affairs

In 1958, the Chinese government again turned to the USSR for help in building a modern navy equipped with a submarine. The Soviet ambassador in Beijing, Pavel Yudin, at a meeting with Mao Zedong on July 1, said that the issue was considered in Moscow, but the construction of a modern submarine fleet is a new and expensive business even for the USSR. Yudin added that in Moscow they consider it possible and expedient to build a modern military fleet by the joint efforts of the USSR and the PRC. The ambassador pointed out that "the Chinese seas in their location are the most important areas that create favorable conditions for the operation of such a fleet in the Pacific", and proposed to hold a meeting on this subject with the participation of Prime Minister Zhou Enlai and Defense Minister Peng Dehuai.

Mao reacted without enthusiasm. He wanted to know whether this fleet would be jointly owned by the USSR and the PRC, and who would control it. Yudin declined to discuss the details and repeated the invitation to Zhou Enlai and Peng Dehuai to come to Moscow to discuss the issue.

The next day, the Soviet ambassador received an invitation to talk with Mao Zedong. In the large pavilion of the indoor swimming pool in the party and government residence of Zhongnanhai all members of the Chinese political bureau were in the capital at that time. Mao wanted to show Yudin that he expressed the opinion of the entire party elite.

The helmsman began with complaints that he didn’t sleep well because of yesterday’s conversation, after which he started arguing that the USSR is a strong country, and China is weak, it does not have atomic weapons and an atomic submarine fleet. Then Mao Zedong went on the offensive, saying that China would not go to the creation of Soviet military bases on its territory in peacetime: "We can only agree that you help us in building a fleet of which we will be masters." An offer to send Zhou Enlai and Peng Dehuai to Moscow was rejected.

In response, Yudin expressed the wish that the questions raised in the conversation, in view of their importance, be discussed by Mao Zedong and Khrushchev in person. Mao agreed, but made an important caveat: if the issue of Soviet assistance in building the Chinese fleet is difficult to solve, then it can be removed or postponed. And in this case, a personal meeting of the two leaders is generally not worth holding.

Unexpected meeting in Beijing

The content of this conversation worried Khrushchev. After a day or two, Yudin informed the Chinese leadership that Khrushchev would not be able to come to China. However, just a week later, on July 31, 1958, Khrushchev arrived at a closed military airfield near Beijing. Information in the press about it was not. Negotiations of the leaders were narrow. According to eyewitnesses, part of the conversations took place around the pool, and the interlocutors reclined in their shorts. The topic was military issues.

When Khrushchev spoke about the special responsibility of the two great powers of the USSR and the USA in the nuclear era, Mao Zedong pretended to be aware of the whole measure of danger, and immediately noted that therefore, China "is extremely important to have a nuclear weapon, but we don’t have it" . Khrushchev replied that the atomic bomb is not so necessary for China, because the USSR is ready to defend its neighbor "as itself." The helmsman objected: "Thank you, but China is a great and sovereign country, and we ourselves need nuclear weapons to protect ourselves in the event of war. If you are not inclined to share these weapons with us, then help China with the technology of creating a nuclear bomb." Khrushchev tried to dissuade the interlocutor and explained that the atomic bomb was an expensive business. To this, Mao said: "Well, let's cope with the American paper tiger on our own."

Khrushchev made it clear that the condition for China’s access to the latest atomic technology could only be his consent to certain control by the USSR. The Soviet leadership was beginning to understand the need for concerted action by the world community in the struggle for nuclear disarmament. In the conversations of Khrushchev and Mao, there was a misunderstanding and mutual discontent that heralded a twenty-year-old quarrel between Moscow and Beijing.

Even before Khrushchev’s visit to China, Defense Minister Rodion Malinowski 18 on April 1958 addressed his colleague, Marshal Peng Dehuai, in which he proposed to jointly carry out the construction of a long-wave radio station and a radio transmitting center capable of communicating with the Soviet Navy in the Pacific. The USSR incurred 70% expenses. The proposal did not like the top leadership of the People's Republic of China, which intended to build such facilities on its own. During the conversation with Ambassador Yudin Mao mentioned above, China said that with the assistance of Moscow, China could build its own tracking station and provide the USSR with the results of observations.

"Russian nationalism" on the Chinese coast

The next topic of conversation between Khrushchev and Mao Zedong in the summer of 1958 was the creation of a joint grouping of nuclear submarines (APL).

According to Chinese data, Mao Zedong told the Soviet leader that China decided not to build its own submarines and therefore withdraws the request for help in their creation. “But this does not mean that we give you our entire coastline. You shouldn’t confuse what we do together with what you do and we do it ourselves. We always wanted to have our own fleet,” the pilot added arrogantly.

"In wartime," Mao Zedong continued, "the situation is changing, you can use all our seaports and military bases. However, we will be in charge of operations here. In turn, our military will be able to operate on your territory, including your port and bases Vladivostok. Our fleet is smaller than yours and will have to obey your leadership. We can sign an agreement on cooperation in wartime before the outbreak of hostilities. Such an agreement should contain a provision that our armed forces can It’s necessary to fix this, it is consistent with the principle of equality. In peacetime, however, this agreement is not necessary. In peacetime, you only need to help us build military bases and build armed strength. "

In conclusion, Mao Zedong faked his interlocutor, saying to Khrushchev: “It’s not very pleasant to hear my words. You can even say that I am a nationalist, that a second Tito has appeared. If you say so, then I can say that your Russian nationalism has spread to the Chinese coast ".

According to domestic sources, Khrushchev, when meeting with Mao Zedong, clarified the Soviet proposal for the joint construction of the fleet. He tried to dispel Mao’s suspicions that Moscow was seeking the creation of a fleet under the Soviet command.

But Khrushchev still insisted on the basing of Soviet submarines in China. "Our fleet is now sailing into the Pacific Ocean, and our main base is in Vladivostok. Could you agree that our submarines could be based with you, refuel, rest, and so on?" - he asked. Mao refused, not hiding discontent. Then Khrushchev offered an exchange: "If necessary, we will give you a district in Murmansk where you can have your own submarines." But Mao Zedong did not agree to this either, pointing out that in the past in England many "foreigners and other foreigners were sitting in China". However, the naval base proposed by Khrushchev to the Chinese was many thousands of kilometers from the zone of the “vital interests” of the Middle Kingdom. And today, China still does not have its own submarines capable of circling half the world and reaching the port on the Barents Sea.

No pants, but with a bomb

By the summer of 1959, it became clear that Moscow would not give China the full technology of manufacturing an atomic bomb. Zhou Enlai said: "We ourselves will get down to business and, starting from the beginning, in eight years we will create it." However, the successful promotion of the Chinese nuclear missile program slowed down due to the "big leap" and the political campaigns that accompanied it.

The review of 1292 from China by Soviet specialists in 1960 caused confusion in Beijing. The timing of the creation of the bomb moved away. In July, 1961 of the year, a discussion broke out at the meeting of workers in the military industry: Is it worth continuing to develop the atomic bomb and launch vehicles in a difficult economic situation?

Mao Zedong was absent at the meeting, but he demanded to once again discuss the question of what course China should take. By the second meeting, the PRC acquired a short-range missile and mastered the production of military equipment, including for testing an atomic bomb. It was concluded that China is able to independently create nuclear weapons. The leaders of the country agreed. Foreign Minister Chen Yi said: "Even if we remain without pants, we still reach the world level of armaments."

Along the way, Beijing tried to get hold of military secrets from Moscow. Starting from the 11 session of the Soviet-Chinese Commission on Scientific and Technical Cooperation, in September 1961, the PRC announced that its main content should be special subjects related to the defense industry, rocket technology and space flight. Similar requests came from Beijing in 1962 and 1963. The Soviet side could not agree with this, but many requests of China in the field of the latest achievements of science and technology were satisfied.

In August, 1962 of the year, Ne Rongzhen reported to the Chinese leadership that the atomic bomb could be tested no later than 1965 of the year. According to Chinese data, over nine hundred factories and research organizations worked on the creation of nuclear missiles. In July, 1963, Zhou Enlai stressed that China needed not only to make a test nuclear explosion, but also to solve the problems of producing carriers of a formidable weapon. He later explained that the main focus of research should be rocket warheads, and aerial bombs - auxiliary.

23 January 1963, the newspaper Yomiuri Shimbun, reported that Chinese friends had informed the member of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Japan, Khakamada, about the imminent testing of the atomic bomb. October 16 1964 of the year at 13 hours Beijing time in China, the first atomic device was detonated. After Zhou Enlai told Mao Zedong about the successful test, the great pilot, demanded to carefully check whether an atomic explosion really occurred. He was immediately informed that the fireball had already turned into a mushroom cloud. At 22 hours the official announcement of the explosion was transmitted by Chinese radio. The work was completed ahead of schedule: instead of the estimated 8 – 10 years, the Chinese atomic bomb was created in just five years.
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