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War and Peace in the Nuclear Age; Haves and Have-Nots; Interview with Xu Han, 1987

Part of War and Peace in the Nuclear Age.


Xu Han was China's Ambassador to the United States from 1985-1989; he had previously served as the number two official at his country's liaison office in Washington from 1973-1979, and before that was involved with the U.S.-China opening in the 1970s. The interview covers a range of topics, including going beyond nuclear issues. He describes Sino-Soviet cooperation in the nuclear field, making plain that China was responsible for much of its own success. Mao Zedong, he says, understood the importance of nuclear weapons but always believed that man was the key factor. According to Xu, the Chinese objected to the Limited Test Ban Treaty as an attempt by the nuclear powers to consolidate their monopoly. They similarly objected to the NPT because of its unfair treatment of non-nuclear states. Beijing's nuclear policy, he declares, is strictly for self-defense and its aid to other states such as Pakistan is entirely peaceful. China needs peace, he maintains, in order to pursue its economic development. In his opinion, the SALT process has done nothing to inhibit the arms race. Among other responses, he lists China's objectives for furthering good relations with the United States.

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War and Peace in the Nuclear Age
Haves and Have-Nots
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Interview with Xu Han, 1987

Series Description

The first atomic explosion in the New Mexico desert on July 16, 1945, changed the world forever. This series chronicles these changes and the history of a new era. It traces the development of nuclear weapons, the evolution of nuclear strategy, and the politics of a world with the power to destroy itself.

In thirteen one-hour programs that combine historic footage and recent interviews with key American, Soviet, and European participants, the nuclear age unfolds: the origin and evolution of nuclear weapons; the people of the past who have shaped the events of the present; the ideas and issues that political leaders, scientists, and the public at large must confront, and the prospects for the future. Nuclear Age highlights the profound changes in contemporary thinking imposed by the advent of nuclear weapons. Series release date: 1/1989

Program Description

A case study of the dynamics of nuclear proliferation: China triggers India and India triggers Pakistan in the competition to have their own nuclear weapons.

In 1953 President Eisenhower announced the Atoms for Peace program. This marked a total reversal of American foreign policy. Americans would give material to allow countries to build reactors. “So overnight we passed from nuclear middle age to nuclear renaissance,” recalls French atomic scientist Bertrand Goldschmidt. The Soviet Union started its own program and helped China learn to build a bomb. The first Chinese nuclear blast was in 1964. Indian defense expert K. Subrahmanyam recalls that a nuclear China prompted India to set off a “peaceful” nuclear explosion in 1974. “There is no such thing as a peaceful nuclear explosion,” responds General A. I. Akram of the Armed Forces of Pakistan. “’74 was a watershed. It brought the shadow of the bomb to South Asia, and that shadow is still there.”



Asset Type

Raw video

Media Type


Korean War, 1950-1953
International Atomic Energy Agency
Nuclear arms control
United States
McNamara, Robert S., 1916-2009
Treaty on the Non-proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (1968)
Soviet Union
Strategic Arms Limitation Talks II
Mao, Zedong, 1893-1976
Nuclear energy
Nuclear nonproliferation
Nuclear disarmament
Nuclear weapons
Strategic Arms Limitation Talks
Nuclear Test Ban Treaty (1963)
Nixon, Richard M. (Richard Milhous), 1913-1994
Global Affairs
War and Conflict
Han, Xu, 1924-1994 (Interviewee)
Publication Information
WGBH Educational Foundation
Chicago: “War and Peace in the Nuclear Age; Haves and Have-Nots; Interview with Xu Han, 1987,” 06/02/1987, GBH Archives, accessed June 14, 2024,
MLA: “War and Peace in the Nuclear Age; Haves and Have-Nots; Interview with Xu Han, 1987.” 06/02/1987. GBH Archives. Web. June 14, 2024. <>.
APA: War and Peace in the Nuclear Age; Haves and Have-Nots; Interview with Xu Han, 1987. Boston, MA: GBH Archives. Retrieved from
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