China's Perspective on Nuclear Deterrence

By Yunzhu, Yao | Air & Space Power Journal, Spring 2010 | Go to article overview

China's Perspective on Nuclear Deterrence


Yunzhu, Yao, Air & Space Power Journal


My topic is about China's perspective on deterrence, but before I deal with the topic, I must point out that for a long time in the Cold War, China strongly opposed the concept of nuclear deterrence, which, as so frequently used by the US government, had carried with it such derogatory connotations as "nuclear blackmail," "nuclear coercion," "nuclear containment," and "nuclear threat." And China, as the country most frequently threatened by nuclear attack, was understandably reluctant to use such a term.1 Not until the late 1980s or early 1990s, when China's drive toward defense modernization inspired academic debate, did deterrence gain acceptance as a key concept in strategic studies and lose its pejorative sense. However, even though the term remained taboo for some time, the logic of deterrence has always played a major role in Chinese nuclear thinking. To facilitate understanding, I explain China's nuclear policy, making use of US deterrence terminology, and compare China's deterrence thinking with that of the United States.

China's No-First~Use Policy Indicates That It Applies Pure Deterrence and Deterrence by Punishment

The most important element of China's nuclear policy is renunciation of the firstuse option. By adopting a no-first-use policy, China has to base its deterrence on retaliation, not on denial. Therefore it must develop retaliatory second-strike capabilities instead of nuclear war-fighting capabilities and doctrines. Studying the nuclear thinking of earlier Chinese leaders like Mao Zedong and Deng Xiaoping, we find that neither man considered nuclear weapons usable on the battlefield in the same way as conventional means. Moreover, neither believed that nuclear wars could ever be fought and won in a measured and controlled way. Such thinking differs from that of American nuclear strategists who have explored many possible forms of nuclear conflict and have formulated complex, complete theories of nuclear war fighting, including limited war, theater nuclear operations, and escalation control.

The Self-Defensive Nature of China's Nuclear Policy Means That It Carries Out Central Deterrence but Not Extended Deterrence

China preserves nuclear capabilities only to deter nuclear-weapon states from launching nuclear attacks against its homeland. China neither provides a "nuclear umbrella" to, nor accepts one from, any other country. Its opposition to the policy of extended nuclear deterrence- the practice of nuclearweapon states' providing nuclear umbrellas to their non-nuclear-weapon allies- attests to the self-defensive nature of that policy. China has clearly indicated that it will neither deploy nuclear weapons on foreign territory nor allow foreign nuclear weapons into China. By comparison, the United States has incorporated extended deterre nee as a key component into its nuclear strategy and alliance policy, both during the Cold War and even today. I disagree with the notion that extended deterrence helps nonpro life ration by relieving allies of the need to develop their indigenous nuclear arsenals, thus reducing the number of nuclear states. In my view, extended deterrence is first and foremost a defense commitment used to strengthen an alliance, with nonprolif e ration a by-product of this commitment rather than a predesigned major mission. Very few of America's allies face threats today that can be dealt with only by US extended nuclear deterrence; rather, US conventional military means can easily satisfy their defense requirements. Additionally, extended deterrence promotes proliferation by motivating declared or potential enemies of the United States and its allies to possess nuclear weapons as asymmetric means to offset US conventional superiority. If we are serious about creating conditions for a nuclear-free world, as President Obama has suggested, the policy of extended nuclear deterrence should be among the first to change.

China's Nuclear Policy Seeks Deterrence at the Grand Strategic and Strategic Levels, Not at the Operational and Tactical Levels

Chinese leaders mainly consider nuclear weapons a political instrument for employment at the level of grand strategy, not as a winning tool for military operations. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

China's Perspective on Nuclear Deterrence
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.