Domestic Factors Could Accelerate the Evolution of China's Nuclear Posture
Apr 20, 2017
China's approach to nuclear deterrence has been broadly consistent since its first test in 1964, but it has recently accelerated nuclear force modernization. China's strategic environment is likely to grow more complex, and nuclear constituencies are gaining a larger bureaucratic voice. Beijing is unlikely to change official nuclear policies but will probably increase emphasis on nuclear deterrence and may adjust the definition of key concepts.
Major Drivers and Issues for the United States
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China's approach to nuclear deterrence has been broadly consistent since its first nuclear test in 1964. Key elements are its no-first-use policy and reliance on a small force of nuclear weapons capable of executing retaliatory strikes if China is attacked. China has recently accelerated nuclear force building and modernization, and both international and domestic factors are likely to drive faster modernization in the future. Chinese nuclear planners are concerned by strategic developments in the United States, especially the deployment of missile defenses. Within the region, Beijing is also an actor in complex multilateral security dynamics that now include several nuclear states, and the improving nuclear capabilities of China's neighbors, especially India, are a growing concern for Beijing. Constituencies for nuclear weapons have gained in bureaucratic standing within the People's Liberation Army (PLA). With few, if any, firewalls between China's conventional and nuclear missile forces, new technologies developed for the former are already being applied to the latter, a trend that will almost certainly continue. Given these changes, China is likely to increase emphasis on nuclear deterrence, accelerate nuclear force modernization, and make adjustments (although not wholesale changes) to policy.
China's Evolving Nuclear Deterrent: Introduction
Baseline: China's Evolving Strategic Nuclear Concepts
China's Nuclear Force Structure
China's View of the Global Security Environment
Chinese Views of U.S. Nuclear Forces and Policy
Nested Security Dilemmas and China's View of Other (Non-U.S.) Nuclear Powers
Internal Drivers: Political Leadership and Bureaucracy
Material Resources and Constraints
Outputs: Potential Developments in China's Nuclear Future
China's Accelerating Nuclear Modernization: Implications
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