Congressional interest in the Chinese military, or People’s Liberation Army (PLA), has increased as a result of the March 1996 tensions in the Taiwan Strait, continuing allegations of Chinese proliferation of technology useful in weapons of mass destruction, and reports that some Chinese defense-related corporations have circumvented U.S. export controls to acquire dual-use technology. The Commission of Science, Technology, and Industry for National Defense (COSTIND), an important, high-level PLA organization, plays a role in China’s weapon programs, sales of civilian goods, acquisition of military technology, and arms sales and export controls. The purpose of this CRS Report is to examine the origins and command, roles, and influence of COSTIND.
Members of Congress are concerned about whether U.S. firms have provided technology or expertise to China for use in its ballistic missile program and whether a series of decisions by the Clinton Administration on satellite exports have facilitated legal or illegal transfers of missile-related technology to China. The New York Times reported in April 1998 that the Justice Department is conducting an ongoing criminal investigation into whether Loral Space and Communications (of New York), and Hughes Electronics (of Los Angeles) violated export control laws. The firms are alleged to have shared their findings with China on the cause of a Chinese rocket’s explosion while launching a U.S.-origin satellite in February 1996. In sharing their conclusions, the companies are said to have provided expertise that China could use to improve its ballistic missiles, including their guidance systems. This CRS report provides detailed background information, significant Congressional action, and a comprehensive chronology. The events summarized here, based on various open sources and interviews, pertain to various aspects of U.S. foreign and security policy.