China's Nuclear Forces: Operations, Training, Doctrine, Command, Control, and Campaign Planning

By Yeaw, Christopher | Naval War College Review, Winter 2008 | Go to article overview

China's Nuclear Forces: Operations, Training, Doctrine, Command, Control, and Campaign Planning


Yeaw, Christopher, Naval War College Review


Wortzel, Lariy M. China's Nuclear Forces: Operations, Training, Doctrine, Command, Control, and Campaign Planning. Carlisle Barracks, Pa.: U.S. Army War College, Strategic Studies Institute, 2007. 51pp.

In China's Nuclear Forces Larry Wortzel has delivered an exceptional monograph that demands the attention of both nuclear strategists and China experts. The author, a leading authority on China, Asia, national security, and military strategy, is currently serving as a commissioner on the congressionally mandated U.S.-China Economic and security Review Commission. He previously served as the director of the Asian Studies Center and vice president for foreign policy at the Heritage Foundation. Wortzel's distinguished thirty-two-year career in the U.S. armed forces, during which time he served as both assistant Army attache and then attache at the American embassy in China, culminated with an assignment as director of the Strategic Studies Institute at the Army War College.

The title of this monograph promises an expansive scope, and Wortzel delivers quite ably. While the scale of the work is extremely helpful in keeping the various aspects and issues in perspective, the most important new contributions to understanding the evolving Chinese nuclear posture are Wortzel's treatments of "no first use" and nuclear command and control. As stated by the author, "The major insights . . . come from exploiting sections of... A Guide to the Study of Campaign Theory [,] . .. an unclassified 'study guide' for PLA officers on how to understand and apply doctrine." These insights, however, which Wortzel so adeptly lays forth, are corroborated in other reliable Chineselanguage material.

It has become conventional wisdom among China scholars to take Chinese declaratory policy of "no first use" of nuclear weapons at face value, excusing away various past unofficial statements suggesting that "no first use" ought not to be taken quite so literally. Wortzel offers a counterbalance to this view, elucidating both the concept of preemptive counterattack and the current debate within China on the viability and utility of adherence to "no first use. …

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