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12-15/10 - Seminar on International Security

David Webb and Steve Wright - 12-15th October 2004

Seminar on International Security - Nanjing and Beijing
12-15 October 2004
By David Webb and Steve Wright

From 12-15th October we were in Nanjing attending the 9th PIIC Beijing Seminar on International Security. We were representing the Praxis Centre for the “Study of Information and technology for Peace, Conflict Resolution and Human Rights”.

Participants at the 9th Beijing Seminar on International Security (photo by Steve Wright)

Nanjing, in the eastern part of China, is the capital of Jiangsu Province and lies on the vast plain of the lower reaches of the Yangtse River. Nanjing has jurisdiction over 10 districts and 5 counties, covering an area of 6,516 square kilometres with a population of some 5,200,000. It has a long history, being around 2500 years old and the capital of ten dynasties in the past.
During Confucian times, Nanjing was one of the foremost places of scholarship and that tradition lasts to this day. We were met with tremendous enthusiasm by the Chinese students who attended this seminar and many expressed their interest in doing postgraduate research in Leeds should a suitable package of support for their studies be developed.

PIIC is an abbreviation of the initials of the organiser - the Program for Science and National Security Studies (PSNSS) - and three sponsors - Institute of Applied Physics and Computational Mathematics (IAPCM), China; The International School on Disarmament and Research on Conflicts (ISODARCO), Italy; and the Chinese Institute of Contemporary International Relations (CICIS). Eight previous seminars have been held under the name of ISODARCO Beijing Seminar on Arms Control every two years since 1988. These have been attended by an international group of natural and social scientists with a focus on a scientific view of international security issues and to work towards a better understanding of the cultural differences and various viewpoints of people from around the world.

The main topics of this year's seminar included:

  1. Strategic Stability and World Security: Nuclear Weapons, Ballistic Missile Defense, Weaponisation of Outer Space, etc.
  2. Preventing the Proliferation of Weapons of Mass Destruction, Regional Security and Stability and Anti-Terrorism: Political Solutions and Technical Challenges.
  3. The World Revolution of Military Affairs and Its Impacts on International Stability.

The delegates were from universities, NGOs, government and state departments and institutions with an interest in technical developments in these areas (such as Lawrence Livermore Lab and the Rand Corporation).

The conference was opened by the chairperson Professor Li Hua of IAPCM and included speeches and opening remarks by Academician Hu Side from the Chinese Academy of Engineering Physics (CAEP), Professor Carlo Schaerf from ISODARCO, Professor Wang Zaibang from CACIR and Professor Hong Yinxing, President of Nanjing University.

Li Hua opens the conference (photo by Steve Wright)

The conference schedule can be seen at

There were a number of very interesting presentations and it was possible to meet with a number of the delegates. The importance of the NPT Review Conference next year was widely recognised and there were a number of papers and wide discussion on Nuclear Nonproliferation issues.

Missile Defence and the Weaponisation of Space issues were mentioned a number of times and widely considered to be of considerable importance in terms of international security. Among the presentations specifically on space issues were:

Ramazan Daurov, Deputy Director of the International Centre for Strategic and Political Studies in Moscow presented a paper on “Strategic Stability and World Security: NW, BMD, Outer Space Weaponisation” and emphasised the dangers of the current US policy on missile defence and the weaponisation of space.

Dr David Wright from the Union of Concerned Scientists in the US spoke on "Technical Aspects of Space Security” and demonstrated that some of the concepts being pushed forward by the US Space Command and others were totally impractical. For example in order for the proposed space plane to carry out some of its suggested manoeuvres, based on current technology, it would need to carry a prohibitive amount of fuel. This talk illustrated that many of the plans of the space military are ill-conceived and have not been properly refereed by independent scientists before they get to the stage where funding is sought.

Professor Dave Webb presented a paper on "Missile Defence – the First Steps Towards War in Space?” which argued that various components of missile defence can be also deployed for anti-satellite use and that this was the most likely reason why missile defence was being developed so rapidly. Among the questions in response to the paper where such as “if as you say everyone knows that missile defence won’t work – why do you say that countries like China will be forced to respond by increasing their nuclear arsenals?” I responded by emphasising that politicians don’t always deal with facts but with perceptions – that is what has fuelled arms races in the past and will continue to do so in the future, unless we can change things.

A presentation by Dr. Gregory Kulacki from the Global Security Program of the Union of Concerned Scientists entitled “A Great Wall of Misunderstanding: Dysfunctional Dialogues in US-China Security Relations” included a report on how the Pentagon's 2002 and 2003 Annual Reports on the Military Power of the People's Republic of China cited a January 2001 Hong Kong newspaper article claiming that China had developed and tested an advanced anti-satellite (ASAT) system - described as a "parasitic microsatellite" that attaches itself to a larger satellite in order to disrupt or destroy it. The existence of such a system is clearly an important issue to the U.S. military and the Congress. Keyword searches on several large Chinese-language search engines enabled the UCS researchers to trace the "parasite satellite" tale to an October 2000 story on a Chinese Web site specializing in military affairs. That story was written by Hong Chaofei, a self-described "military enthusiast”, who runs a Chinese-language Internet bulletin board filled with fanciful stories about 'secret' Chinese weapons to be used against Americans in a future war over Taiwan. The poor quality of his technical descriptions, his use of extremely provocative language and the nature of the other materials on his Web site call into question his credibility. An article on this appeared in the Washington Post on 14 August (see:

Dr. Jeffrey Lewis from the Centre for International and Security Studies at Maryland gave an interesting presentation on “Space Weaponisation Spending in FY2005 Defense Budget”. He was able to show how a number of projects for which funding had been requested had been cut back. For instance the Common Aero Vehicle from DARPA had its budget cut by a half to $12.5m with a proviso that weapons related work should not be engaged in. The controversial Near Field Infra Red Experiment (NFIRE) of the MDA may have been cut altogether (the exact status of the funding decision is not clear, but it does seem that the inclusion of a kill vehicle in the experiment - the source of the contention – has been withdrawn. Other space programs suffered funding cuts from appropriators including the Space Based Radar (SBR), Transformational SATCOM (T-SAT) and Counter Surveillance Recognisance System (CSRS) programs.

This reminded me of a recent (5 August) article in Aerospace Daily & Defense Report (see: quotes a senior scientist at SAIC as saying that these cuts are:

"largely due to the concern over the proper use of force in space and the vocal anti-space weapons community." "To their credit, they have been on the field. The people who are advocates of the funding for these particular programs ... haven't well engaged in that debate.

Peter Huessy of the National Defense University Foundation was also quoted as saying that the anti-space weapons lobby has been effective in part because of its significant financial backing. The lobby is "being led, unfortunately, by not just the traditional arms control community, but about $100 million a year from foundations," according to Huessy. "And that kind of money is so far and beyond anything being spent by the proponents.”

Of course, this is actually just a case of arguing for more funding for lobbying and no doubt that will happen.

On the last day Dr Duan Zhanyuan from the China Astronautic Institute presented a paper on “Preventing Outer Space Weaponisation: Prospect & Challenge” which was a very useful summary of the current situation.

Another very interesting presentation was on “Universal Compliance – a Strategy for Nuclear Security” by Joseph Cirincione of the Carnegie Endowment Foundation. This was a draft strategy report suggesting a rethink of the international nuclear nonproliferation regime. The presentation highlighted the shift in policy between Presidents Clinton, where the threat to national security was seen as “the proliferation of nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons and the means of delivering such weapons.” and George W. Bush, who has favoured counter-proliferation, stating that “the gravest danger facing America and the world is outlaw regimes that seek and possess nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons”. The proposal made was for a policy of Universal Compliance involving five obligations of: No New Nuclear Weapon States; The Security of all Nuclear Materials; Stopping Illegal transfers; Devaluing Nuclear Weapons and Committing to Conflict Resolution. This has become the basis for a widespread campaign from the Carnegie Foundation.

On the second key theme of the seminar, ‘The World Revolution of Military Affairs and Its Impacts on International Stability’ Professor Wright of the Praxis Centre presented a paper “The Challenge of the War Against Terrorism to Critical Human Security Networks.”. This paper questioned whether the development of unconventional weapons to fight this war could be contained. Key commercial interests and the failure of any democratic checks and balances meant that such technologies are bound to proliferate with dire human rights consequences if complex political debates were redefined into simplistic shibboleths of ‘for or against us’. This ‘goodies and baddies’ nonsense was best illustrated by an example of the new US ‘vehicle mounted area denial microwave weapon’ - the VMAD system. When US proponents were questioned about the possibility of countermeasures the response was there are only two sorts of people in the world – tourists and terrorists. Tourists don’t develop countermeasures and we shoot terrorists. For many people this area of paralysing and incapacitating technologies was new but a member of the European Council, Massimo Mauro (speaking in a personal capacity) presented a related paper on unconventional weapons. The discussions over meals and coffee led us to believe we could and should facilitate a specific meeting within the Italian Pugwash movement on this subject and given that the President of ISODARCO was present, discussions on appropriate speakers and fundraising began there and then.

Professor Wright also presented a paper at the final session of the seminar on ‘Critical Cultural Perspectives on Human Security During a Time of Terror.’ This related to one of the key strands of the conference: i.e. ‘Preventing the Proliferation of Weapons of Mass Destruction, Regional Security and Stability and Anti-Terrorism: Political Solutions and Technical Challenges.’ Wright argued that different cultures have very different concepts of human security and often very different priorities for tackling it. Previous interventions from the floor had reinforced this view that in terms of the overall statistics of deadly quarrels, non state terrorism exacts a relatively minor death toll. Indeed 600 people die on China’s roads every day – which is equivalent to a 9/11 tragedy every month. So how should a society prioritise its responses to the very many and varied security needs and challenges, and who actually decides? A lively discussion followed with a conclusion that many of these dilemmas will be played out in China in a very public fashion in 2008 when Beijing hosts the Olympic Games. Elsewhere security assistance from the major powers may come with a hidden agenda and often that larger agenda is privileged information.

Apart from the above mentioned authors we met and had interesting discussion with the following delegates:

  • Professor M.V. Rappai, Visiting Fellow, Institute of Chinese Studies, Delhi, India
  • Dr Wei Zonglei, Division of American Studies, China Institute of Contemporary International Relations, Beijing

We also met with many of the Italian delegates of the Nobel Peace Prize winning organisation Pugwash, including fomer Director of the Atomic Energy Commission, Victor Glinsky, Director of the Italian Group ISODARCO, Professor Carlo Schaerf and Professor Francesco Calogero who made the Nobel acceptance speech on behalf of Pugwash.

Pictures from Nanjing by Dave Webb

The Memorial to Sun Yat-sen - "The Father of the Revolution" considered by many to be the most important figure of 20th century Chinese history. His life was one of constant struggle and frequent exile. For over twenty years he battled to bring a nationalist and democratic revolution to China. When a Chinese Republic was finally establishment in 1912 with him as president, he was forced to resign in favour of the dictatorial Yüan Shih-kai. Sun Yat-sen developed a political philosophy known as the Three People's Principles: nationalism, democracy, and livelihood. These meant freedom from imperialist domination; a democratically elected constitutional government and people's welfare/livelihood (or socialism - including the equality of land holdings for peasant farmers and a more even distribution of wealth).

The Memorial of the Nanjing Massacre - Containing outdoor exhibits, a historical museum and a building housing the remains of some of the 300,000 killed during the World War II Japanese invasion of Nanjing. The exhibits in the museum document the atrocities committed by Japanese soldiers against the civilian population during the 1937 occupation. The only heartening exhibit in this otherwise grim museum, shows the improvement in Sino-Japanese relations with letters from Japanese schoolchildren apologising for their country’s wartime aggression.

Despite the somewhat gloomy nature of many of the presentations (especially those on the possible acquisition and use of nuclear materials by terrorists) the conference was quite up beat and sometimes very positive. It was enjoyable and a great opportunity to talk to so many interesting people. We were sufficiently encouraged by our experience to look at the possibilities of PRAXIS putting on a regular series of talks on security and peace issues of the day with high profile speakers. We also saw the benefits of beginning a young persons Pugwash organisation here at Leeds to encourage researchers just beginning their careers to examine the social and ethical consequences of their work.

Visit to Chinese People’s Association for Peace and Disarmament
Beijing – 18 November

After the conference we moved on to Beijing. Professor Webb stayed here for a few days to make some visits. The first was to the Chinese People’s Association for Peace and Disarmament (CPAPD) which is a nation-wide (Governmental) NGO with 24 affiliated member organizations. It was founded in June 1985 by several mass organizations and by prominent public figures from all sectors in China and in 1986 was given the title of Peace Messenger by the United Nations for its efforts in the Chinese Organizing Committee for the International Year of Peace. The Association “works for the promotion of mutual understanding, friendship and cooperation between the Chinese people and peoples of the world. It aims to safeguard world peace, strives for disarmament and prevention of a new world war”. In addition the CPAPD works to protect the natural environment promote economic development and advance social progress.

Here Professor Webb met with the Secretary General Niu Qiang and Chen Huaifan, the General Office Director. Although not an actual NGO I thought we had much in common. Their concern for peaceful resolutions of international problems was genuine. Of course China is a nuclear weapons state and it would be we would very much like it to relinquish its nuclear weapons, but there appears to be a great measure of mistrust when it comes to dealings with the US in particular.

With Niu Qiang, Secretary General of the CPAPD

Professor Webb gave a short presentation on our work and the work of NGOs in the UK and Europe and was able to provide them with various articles and documents on missile defence and the weaponisation of space. In return the CPAPD described the history of the Association and how it currently operates. They were interested to hear more about the protest against the Iraq war and its possible effects on our governments.

China’s fast expanding economy and construction program means that the consumption of energy is increasing rapidly. Unfortunately it looks as if the Chinese government is considering embarking on a possible widespread program of nuclear power. I emphasised that we believe that there is a strong association between nuclear power and nuclear weapons and there are many problems with dealing with waste and reprocessing. Some of these issues seemed new to the CPAPD and they were interested in the arguments.

Over dinner we talked of the problems associated with Taiwan and the development of missile defence systems in the Pacific area. This could become a most dangerous situation. The Chinese government will not tolerate US interference in what it sees as an internal affair. Niu Qiang emphasised this point quite strongly.

This visit was most useful and Niu Qianq invited us to contact him if we needed information on developments in China in the near future.

Photos from Beijing by Dave Webb

The Ming Tombs
About 30 miles northwest of Beijing at the foot of the Tianshou Mountains are the tombs of 13 of the 16 Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) emperors. The first emperor to be buried here was Yongle who died in 1424. His tomb, Chang Ling, and that of Emperor Zhu Yijun, Ding Ling, who died in 1620, are the only two opened to visitors today. Each tomb is located at the foot of a separate hill and is linked with the other tombs by a road called the Sacred Way
Stone statues along the Sacred Way

The Temple of Heaveng
Built in 1420 A.D. during the Ming Dynasty to offer sacrifice to Heaven.

The Forbidden City
The imperial palace during the Ming and Qing dynasties at the north end of Tiananmen Square,it is the world's largest palace complex, covering 74 hectares with 9,999 buildings.

The Great Wall
Like a gigantic dragon winding up and down, crossing deserts, grasslands, mountains and plateaus stretching over 4,000 miles from east to west across China. When the emperor Qin Shi Huang, of the Qin dynasty, unified the country in 214 BC, he ordered that the separate walls, built by the Qin, Yan and Zhao kingdoms, be joined up to form a defensive system to the north.

Tiananmen Square
Said to be the biggest square in the world, it covers a total area 440,000 square meters and can hold a million people. The Monument to the People's Heroes dominates the center, the Great Hall of the People and the Museum of the Chinese Revolution and the Museum of Chinese History lie to the east and west of it.

Visit to North China University of Technology Engineering College
Beijing – 19 November

Professor Webb visited the Engineering department here and met with Professor X K Luo, Dean of the Faculty of Mechanical-Electrical Engineering and his colleagues. At the time the department was going through the equivalent of a QAA inspection and so everyone was very busy and a bit nervous. However, all the staff were extremely welcoming and friendly and we were able to exchange a number of ideas on possible collaboration with research and teaching projects.

Professor Webb left leaflets, brochures and other information on courses available at Leeds Metropolitan University. He was also invited to give talks to researchers and to students and during these it was possible to explore the possibilities of furthering our academic relationship with staff and students.

With Professor X K Luo, Dean of the Faculty of Mechanical-Electrical Engineering

Lunch with Vice President Professor Li Zheng Xi

At lunch time they were joined by Vice President Professor Li Zheng Xi and he was very interested in the possibility of developing links with Leeds Met from Art & Design and Architecture. In particular he referred to the possibility of staff and students benefiting from exchanges in different cultural histories and backgrounds.

Currently they host students and staff members from a US university regularly but would be interested in the possibility of doing the same with us. This information has been passed on to Mary Haycock, Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Society.

Presentation to research group

Presentation to undergraduate students

Collaboration possibilities

As regards Engineering and Technology a number of students asked questions at the end of the presentation to them asking about the procedures of applying to Leeds. One concern however was the fees. The students who attend this University are generally from families that are middle class but find it difficult to pay the full overseas fees and help with living expenses. Many students asked if there were bursaries available or a reduced rate from the normal £7,3332 pa. This matter was also discussed with Professor X K Luo who explained that they have existing arrangements with the University of Central Lancashire and a number of their students (around 15 or 16 per year) do go there.

The undergraduate students on these courses are taught in English and so any language problems with the majority of students is minimal. The University is very keen to enter into a long term relationship[p with Leeds Metropolitan University and it could open up the possibility of a useful market for our Masters in Engineering course. Professor Luo has suggested that if we could negotiate a special fee of around £5.500 - £6,000 then we could expect around 10-15 students to enter our Masters course each year. This is the kind of arrangement that Innovation North has with Shanghai University.

It would also be beneficial to explore the possibility of lecturers from Leeds Metropolitan University presenting a module to final year undergraduates here. This would have a number of advantages: it would

  1. strengthen our relationship
  2. provide extra language opportunities for the students
  3. enable staff from Innovation North to assess individual students to recruit onto our Masters (or pre-masters) schemes.

There is a very big market in Beijing that we should take seriously. We are lagging behind most universities n our development of relations with Chinese institutions; it would therefore seem to be both timely and beneficial to Innovation North and the University if we took this opportunity to develop this relationship further.

It is hoped that this will be followed up in the next few months.

Visit to Tsinghua University
Beijing – 20 November

Here Professor Webb met with Professor Ken Chen of the Manufacturing Research Institute, who organised a tour of the research facilities of the university. Contact was made with several research students working in the area of Precision Engineering and ideas and information exchanged.

This is a very different University to the one previously visited and many of the students go on from here to universities such Cambridge for further study. It is a very well known university with an international reputation for first class research and a culture which differs from Leeds Metropolitan University and North China University of Technology. It therefore does not seem to be profitable to develop relations further at this stage.

West gate (Ximenr) of Tsinghua University


It has been a busy but rewarding visit – China is a fascinating place with a growing number of opportunities to build mutually useful relationships. The Chinese people were friendly and hospitable. It is also a huge country with an ancient culture which coexists alongside a developing technological society that is beginning to challenge many preconceived ideas on its role in the world. We were astonished by the spate of building going on in China and probably saw more cranes together than we have ever seen anywhere else in our lives. This rapid rate of development has led to a huge appetite for resources, the creation of a production capacity which seems set to challenge all comers and a concomitant pouring out of greenhouse gasses which seem destined to accelerate all the calculations on the rate of current climate change.

The recent opening up of China also brings with it a tremendous willingness of young Chinese people to learn and travel and many of these bilingual students will become the movers and shakers in the most rapidly expanding economic sectors on earth. We were encouraged by the warmth of our reception and look forward to deepening the friendly links fostered by this visit. The ideas and suggested actions outlined above will be followed up hopefully to good effect in the following months.

Action & Recommendation

  1. The visit to North China University of Technology Engineering College and connections made should be built on.
  2. It is recommended that the Faculty of Arts and Society follow up the interest shown by Vice President Professor Li Zheng Xi in the possibility of developing links with Art & Design and Architecture.
  3. It is recommended that Innovation North form a working group to consider the recruitment of final year under graduate, post graduate masters and research students from overseas. This group could consider the possibility of offering bursaries or reduced rates for target universities. The suggestion of Professor Luo that we negotiate a special fee of around £5.500 - £6,000 could also e considered. As mentioned above it would also be beneficial to explore the possibility of lecturers from INN presenting a module to final year undergraduates there.
  4. It is recommended that a further visit be made (perhaps by Prof Cheng or Dr Crispin) to China University of Technology Engineering College early in 2005 with a view to recruiting on to the Engineering Masters course. The possibility of delivering a module in part or full should also be explored
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