Because China built its atomic and hydrogen bombs at a time of resource scarcity and rudimentary industrial development, it is generally believed that it got a great deal of help from Soviet nuclear technology transfer during the late 1950s. In particular, Soviet leaders and scientists asserted that they supplied China with extensive and critical assistance; some even claimed that this transfer of nuclear technology shortened the time needed to develop China's nuclear weapons by at least 15 years. Many non-Soviet researchers have concurred. Yet while Chinese officials, scientists, and historians have always given the Soviets due credit for this help, many have also continued to assert that because the Chinese solved key nuclear technology issues on their own, the effect of Soviet technology transfer was in fact more limited than these other experts claimed.

Following a brief review of the history of Soviet nuclear-weapons technology transfer to China, this article addresses the issue by describing the kinds of Soviet nuclear-weapons technology transferred to China, assessing the role this Soviet technology played in China's nuclear-weapons program, and finally comparing and contrasting Soviet and Chinese views on the importance of Soviet technology transfer to the development of China's nuclear-weapons program.