What motivated the USSR to assist China with the development of Nuclear Weapons? Ie, How did this benefit the USSR?

Why would the USSR want China to have this technology during the 1950s and early 1960s? What did they get out of this transfer of technology? What could possibly be the strategic and political reasoning behind providing such strategic technology to a neighbour country.

The reasons I can think of are that China was one of the most prominent Communist countries and the USSR had an interest in seeing that Communism succeeded and spread, therefore having a nuclear China could assure its longevity(avoid foreign attacks and occupation) and maybe assist internal/domestic stability? Also maybe China having nuclear weapons would cause friction with the West and drive China towards the USSR, to avoid China being an adversary by giving them a common enemy(the west).

  • i found this text useful: wilsoncenter.org/publication/… -- basically no reason existed except to get China involved as some sort of ally into Khrushchev attempts to play with US/UK. That all was stupid actions: USSR had nothing in exchange -- the same as projects in arab countries and in africa. Another example of Khrushchev stupidity was passing Crimea to Ukraine.
    – lowtech
    Jan 19, 2015 at 18:51

3 Answers 3


I found this link on the subject: http://www.sinodefence.com/strategic/organisation/programme.asp

I read from other sources (sorry, I don't remember them now) as well that USSR primary target was nuclear power. In the beginning China was strong ally for USSR, and in the 60's their diplomatic relationship became cooler. So for the 50's USSR assisted them as an ally to enforce the communist block and of course increase their own power by an ally. After Stalin's death under Khruschev this relation decayed slowly, and became hostile for sure during the Sino-Soviet border conflict.

I am guessing the soviets' primary target as the nuclear power generation was the main goal, and they didn't really mind if the chinese people make bomb as well. But as I know it wasn't a goal. The propaganda was about peaceful use of nuclear power.


In those times - shortly after the foundation of PRC in 1947, it was one of the closest ally of the USSR - as another socialist country. USSR helped China a lot, especially in development of PRC army - some of the Soviet weapon systems are still used.

Since Khrushchev became a leader of the USSR (and followed change in ideology, moving USSR socializm closer to Trozkism), relations become way cooler and help program was ended.

So, the main benefit and reason was empowering of an ally. It's logical. Just like now Russia helps China with building an advanced missile defence system, analogue of Russian early-warning radar system.


According to Mao: The Unknown Story by Chang and Halliday (quite partisan in its dislike of Mao), the USSR, post-Stalin, did not in fact see giving away the bomb as very beneficial.

However, Mao was really persistent in wanting to acquire bomb capability and bribed the USSR generously with foodstuff, even while its people starved. The pursuit of the bomb, per Chang and Halliday, was in fact a major factor in mass Chinese starvation as they kept on exporting food all the while.

So, no, Communist brotherhood did cool after Stalin, but the USSR was bribed sufficiently to proceed for a while. By 1959, Kruschev pulled the plug on Soviet help, but China finished the job on its own and tested in 1964.

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