China

Cluster Munition Ban Policy

Last updated: 11 December 2023

Summary

Non-signatory China acknowledges the humanitarian concerns over cluster munitions but has not taken any steps to join the Convention on Cluster Munitions. China has participated as an observer at every meeting of the convention except the Tenth Meeting of States Parties held in Geneva in August–September 2022. China voted in favor of a key annual United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) resolution promoting the convention in December 2022.

China produces, exports, and stockpiles cluster munitions, but says that it has never used them.

 

Policy

The People’s Republic of China has not acceded to the Convention on Cluster Munitions.

China has not taken any steps to join the convention as it sees military utility in cluster munitions. Previously, in 2014, China stated that it “ascribes to the goal and principles” of the convention, without joining it.[1] In November 2020, China told States Parties that the military and security needs of states must be taken into account when addressing the humanitarian concerns raised by cluster munitions.[2] China has repeatedly stated that it “cannot join the convention at the moment…due to our national defence needs.”[3]

China has long objected to the way the convention was negotiated outside of United Nations (UN) auspices.[4] It often states that “the users of cluster munitions, particularly those who massively used cluster munitions on other countries’ territory” must “effectively shoulder the responsibility for their clearance.”[5]

China did not participate in the Oslo Process that created the Convention on Cluster Munitions.[6] When the convention opened for signature in Oslo in December 2008, China issued a statement committing to work for an “early and proper solution on the humanitarian problems arising from cluster bombs.”[7]

China has participated as an observer at every Meeting of States Parties to the convention, except for the Tenth Meeting of States Parties in Geneva in August–September 2022.[8]

In December 2022, China voted in favor of the key UNGA resolution that called on states outside the Convention on Cluster Munitions to “join as soon as possible.”[9] Previously, China had abstained from voting on the annual UNGA resolution promoting the convention since it was first introduced in 2015.

China has not condemned the use of cluster munitions in Ukraine or other recent conflicts.[10] However, in July 2023, China sharply criticized a decision by the United States (US) to transfer cluster munitions to Ukraine, stating that “the irresponsible transfer of cluster munitions can lead to humanitarian problems. We should fairly manage humanitarian concerns and legitimate military and security needs, and maintain a prudent and restrained attitude towards the transfer of cluster munitions.”[11]

China is not party to the Mine Ban Treaty.

China is party to the Convention on Conventional Weapons (CCW). China supported a failed effort to create a new CCW protocol on cluster munitions in 2008–2011, but it has not proposed further CCW deliberations on cluster munitions since then. The CCW failure left the Convention on Cluster Munitions as the sole legally binding instrument dedicated to ending human suffering caused by these weapons.

 

Use

China often states that it has never used cluster munitions anywhere in the world.[12] In November 2020, China told States Parties that it “has never used cluster munitions in external territories.”[13] Previously, in September 2018, China told States Parties that it “never uses” cluster munitions.[14]

 

Production and stockpiling

China has acknowledged to the Monitor that it produces, stockpiles, and exports cluster munitions.

State-owned company China Northern Industries (Norinco) produces a range of conventional air-dropped and ground-launched cluster munitions including bombs, artillery projectiles, and rockets. It most recently produced the Tianlei 500, which is a 500kg air-to-surface cluster munition capable of dispensing 240 submunitions at a range of 60km from the launching point.[15]

Sichuan Aerospace Industry Corporation, a subsidiary of state-owned China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation (CASIC), produces and markets 302mm (WS-1, WS-1B, and WS-1E) and 320mm (WS-2) unguided multiple-launch surface-to-surface artillery rockets available with “armor-defeating and killing double use cluster,” “comprehensive effect cluster,” and “sensor fused cluster” warheads.[16] Additionally, several of China’s ballistic missile systems are reported to have warheads that contain conventional explosive submunitions, but few details are available.[17]

   Cluster munitions produced in China[18]

Type

Caliber

Carrier name

Number

Submunition type

Projectiles

120mm

Type W01

30

DPICM

122mm

Type-83

30

Type-81 DPICM

130mm

Type-59

35

Type-81 DPICM

152mm

Type-62

63

Type-81 DPICM

152mm

Type-66

63

Type-81 DPICM

155mm

Unknown

72

Type-81 DPICM

203mm

Unknown

100

DPICM

Bombs

 

 

 

N/A

Anti-runway

12

Unknown

Antitank

16

Unknown

BL-755 clone

340 Kg

147

189

Unknown

Unknown

Type 2

Type 2

Type 2

42

26

28

AP bomblets

AT bomblets

AP/AM

Rockets

107mm

122mm

122mm

273mm

302mm

320mm

Type-63

Type-81

Type-90A

WM-80

WS-1, -1B, -1E

WS-2

16

39

39

320

Type-81 DPICM

Type-90 DPICM

DPICM

DPICM

DPICM, CEM, SFW

DPICM, CEM, SFW

Note: N/A=not applicable; DPICM=dual-purpose improved conventional munition; AP=antipersonnel; AT=antitank; APAM=antipersonnel/antimateriel; CEM=combined effects munition; SFW=sensor fuzed weapon.

CASIC has developed the SY300 and SY400, which are 300mm and 400mm munitions, with dual-purpose submunitions and blast fragmentation warhead options.[19] The China Precision Machinery Import and Export Corporation promoted the SY300, SY400, and P12 systems at the International Defence Exhibition and Conference (IDEX) arms fair in 2015 in Abu Dhabi.[20] In 2016, China’s military TV channel reportedly broadcast footage of a CASIC DF-16B medium-range ballistic missile capable of delivering a cluster munition warhead over a distance of 800–1,000km.[21]

 

Transfers

There is no transparency on China’s exports and transfers of cluster munitions. In September 2019, China told States Parties that it has “a prudent and responsible attitude” regarding exports of cluster munitions, stating “We do not export military products to countries under Security Council embargoes and sanctions and do not provide weapons to non-state actors or individuals.”[22] In 2012, a government official said that China’s “strict policy on exporting weapons” applies to cluster munition transfers.[23]

Cluster munition remnants of Chinese origin have been found in Iraq, Israel, Lebanon, and Sudan:

  • Deminers in Iraq cleared unexploded Type-81 dual-purpose improved conventional munition (DPICM) submunitions in 2003.[24] The US military’s unexploded ordnance identification guide also identified the Chinese Type-2 250kg dispenser as being present in Iraq.[25]
  • Hezbollah fired more than 100 Chinese Type-81 122mm rockets containing Type-90 (also called MZD-2) DPICM-type submunitions into northern Israel in July–August 2006.[26]
  • Deminers in southern Lebanon have also found MZD-2 DPICM submunitions, fired from 122mm rockets.
  • A Rockeye-type cluster bomb with Chinese language external markings was documented in Yei, Sudan in 2006.

 



[1] Statement of China, Convention on Cluster Munitions Fifth Meeting of States Parties, San Jose, 2 September 2014.

[2] Statement of China, Convention on Cluster Munitions Second Review Conference, held virtually, 25 November 2020. China had previously praised the convention as “an important effort of the international community to advance humanitarian concerns” and welcomed the “significant progress” made especially in domestic legislation and transparency measures. Statement of China, Convention on Cluster Munitions Ninth Meeting of States Parties, Geneva, 2 September 2019. China made a similar statement in 2018. See, Statement of China, Convention on Cluster Munitions Eighth Meeting of States Parties, Geneva, 3 September 2018.

[3] Statement of China, Convention on Cluster Munitions Seventh Meeting of States Parties, Geneva, 4 September 2017; statement of China, Convention on Cluster Munitions Eighth Meeting of States Parties, Geneva, 3 September 2018; and statement of China, Convention on Cluster Munitions Ninth Meeting of States Parties, Geneva, 2 September 2019.

[4] Statement of China, Convention on Cluster Munitions Fourth Meeting of States Parties, Lusaka, 10 September 2013; statement of China, Convention on Cluster Munitions Seventh Meeting of States Parties, Geneva, 4 September 2017; statement of China, Convention on Cluster Munitions Eighth Meeting of States Parties, Geneva, 3 September 2018; and statement of China, Convention on Cluster Munitions Ninth Meeting of States Parties, Geneva, 2 September 2019.

[5] Statement of China, Convention on Cluster Munitions Second Review Conference, held virtually, 25 November 2020; and statement of China, Convention on Cluster Munitions Seventh Meeting of States Parties, Geneva, 4 September 2017.

[6] For details on China’s policy and practice regarding cluster munitions through early 2009, see Human Rights Watch (HRW) and Landmine Action, Banning Cluster Munitions: Government Policy and Practice (Ottawa: Mines Action Canada, May 2009), pp. 195–196.

[7] Wang Hongjiang, “Ministry: China supports int’l efforts to ban cluster bombs,” Chinese Government’s Official Web Portal, 2 December 2008.

[8] China attended every Meeting of States Parties of the convention from 2010–2019, the First Review Conference in 2015, the Second Review Conference in 2020–2021, and intersessional meetings in 2011–2014.

[9]Implementation of the Convention on Cluster Munitions,” UNGA Resolution 77/79, 7 December 2022.

[10] In May 2022 a Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesperson condemned past cluster munition use by the United States (US) in Southeast Asia. See, “Chinese FM slams US for huge harm caused by unexploded bombs it left in Southeast Asia,” Global Times, 11 May 2022.

[12] Statement of China, Convention on Cluster Munitions Second Review Conference, held virtually, 25 November 2020; statement of China, Convention on Cluster Munitions First Review Conference, Dubrovnik, 7 September 2015; statement of China, Convention on Cluster Munitions Second Meeting of States Parties, Beirut, 13 September 2011; and statement of China, Convention on Cluster Munitions First Meeting of States Parties, Vientiane, 10 November 2010. Notes by the CMC. At CCW meetings in Geneva in April 2010 and February 2011, China stated that it has “never used cluster munitions outside its territories.” Statement by Amb. Wang Qun, CCW Group of Governmental Experts on Cluster Munitions, Geneva, 12 April 2010; and statement of China, CCW Group of Governmental Experts on Cluster Munitions, Geneva, 21 February 2011. Notes by the CMC.

[13] Statement of China, Convention on Cluster Munitions Second Review Conference, held virtually, 25 November 2020. China made a similar statement in 2019. See, statement of China, Convention on Cluster Munitions Ninth Meeting of States Parties, Geneva, 2 September 2019.

[14] Statement of China, Convention on Cluster Munitions Eighth Meeting of States Parties, Geneva, 3 September 2018.

[16] Sichuan Aerospace Industry Corporation, “Our Products,” undated.

[17] Chinese ballistic missile systems reported to be capable of delivering conventional explosive submunitions among the warhead options include the DF-11, DF-15, DF-21, and M-7 (Project 8610). Duncan Lennox, Jane’s Strategic Weapons Systems, Issue 46 (Surrey: Jane’s Information Group, January 2007).

[18] The primary sources for information on China’s cluster munitions are: Robert Hewson, ed., Jane’s Air-Launched Weapons, Issue 44 (Surrey: Jane’s Information Group, 2004), p. 837; and Leland S. Ness and Anthony G. Williams, eds., Jane’s Ammunition Handbook 2007–2008, 15 January 2008 (Surrey: Jane’s Information Group, 2007). This table is supplemented with information from: US Department of Defense, “Improved Conventional Munitions and Selected Controlled-Fragmentation Munitions (Current and Projected) DST-1160S-020-90,” 8 June 1990. This file was partially declassified and made available to HRW under a Freedom of Information Act request.

[19] The larger SY-400 mod version carries a 300kg payload capable of delivering a 660 cluster-bomblet warhead. The company’s short-range P-12 missile is also capable of carrying an anti-armor submunitions warhead.

[21] R.D. Fisher Jr., “PLA flaunts strategic missiles of its Rocket Force,” IHS Janes Defence Weekly, 16 February 2016; and Jeffrey Lin and Peter W. Singer, “New Chinese Ballistic Missile Crashes the Battlefield Party With Cluster Munitions,” Popular Science, 19 February 2016.

[22] Statement of China, Convention on Cluster Munitions Ninth Meeting of States Parties, Geneva, 2 September 2019. China had previously made similar statements. See, statement of China, Convention on Cluster Munitions Seventh Meeting of States Parties, Geneva, 4 September 2017; and statement of China, Convention on Cluster Munitions Eighth Meeting of States Parties, Geneva, 3 September 2018.

[23] The official said that the “Export of such weapons should not go against China’s relevant laws and regulations, and that without export license issued by the competent authorities [sic] is also not allowed.” Email from Lai Haiyang, Attaché, Department of Arms Control and Disarmament, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 5 March 2012.

[24] Colin King, ed., Jane’s Explosive Ordnance Disposal 2007–2008, CD-edition (Surrey: Jane’s Information Group, January 2008).

[25] US Navy, Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) Technical Division, “Iraq Ordnance Identification Guide, Dispenser, Cluster and Launcher-2,” undated.