Chinese Nuclear Proliferation: How Global Politics Is Transforming China's Weapons Buildup and Modernization

By Susan Turner Haynes | Go to book overview

3 China’s Nuclear Strategy

Looking at the overall decline in the global inventory of nuclear weapons, the incongruity of China’s trajectory becomes apparent. China has expanded and diversified its nuclear force at the same time that its NPT counterparts have made drastic cuts. The follow-up question is whether or not the changes in China’s nuclear arsenal are symptoms of a much larger change in China’s nuclear strategy. In other words, does China’s growing nuclear arsenal indicate that it is shifting from a strategy of minimum deterrence to a strategy of limited deterrence? This chapter explores this question by examining if and how views in China have changed across the five strategic dimensions mentioned in chapter 1, including assumptions and aims, conditions of use, force requirements, and intended targets.1


Defining Deterrence

Before we discuss China’s practice of nuclear deterrence and its perceived evolution, it is necessary to explain how China’s concept of nuclear deterrence has evolved. The first point to make in any discussion of China’s nuclear strategy is that the term “deterrence” (weishe) has not historically had the same meaning in China as it has in the West. In the West, deterrence and compellence have distinct meanings: deterrence is the use of threat to prevent an adversary from taking action, and compellence is the use of threat to force an adversary to take action. These definitions, initially provided by Thomas Schelling, are generally still accepted in the West. In China, by contrast, scholars and statesmen initially conflated the term “deterrence” with the term “compellence” to mean the military art of “subduing [the enemy] without warfare.”2 The PLA Encyclopedia provides a more technical definition, defining the strategy of deterrence

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Chinese Nuclear Proliferation: How Global Politics Is Transforming China's Weapons Buildup and Modernization
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Illustrations viii
  • Acknowledgments ix
  • Abbreviations x
  • Introduction 1
  • 1 - A Typology of Nuclear Strategies 11
  • 2 - Force Structure Variance 44
  • 3 - China’s Nuclear Strategy 58
  • 4 - The Influence of America 91
  • 5 - The Influence of Regional Powers 107
  • 6 - The Influence of Prestige 127
  • Conclusion 136
  • Notes 149
  • Bibliography 165
  • Index 173
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