4
Sharpening the nuclear sword

Formally established on 1 July 1965, the Strategic Missile Force (SMF) comprises China's surface-to-surface ballistic missile systems, which range from short to intercontinental. Its official Chinese name is Dier Paobing (the Second Artillery), given by Zhou Enlai, China's first premier, in 1965. This confusing name probably reveals the leader's less than sophisticated understanding of the strategic importance of missiles at the time: he considered the functions of missiles as an extension of artillery. Even so, the SMF was given priority treatment in all respects from the very beginning. Its importance is reflected in the fact that, despite its small number of personnel (about 4 per cent of the PLA total), the SMF has always been allocated the highest percentage of military outlays in the PLA. For instance, the SMF receives 12 to 15 per cent of the total defence expenditure and about 20 per cent of the PLA's total procurement budget. 1 In 1985, when other services were adversely affected by the cut of one million personnel, the SMF actually expanded. Now it is almost certain that the PLA's nuclear arm will be further strengthened, even though other nuclear powers have begun to trim their nuclear arsenals and force levels. In a way this move is in keeping with China's realism-based foreign policy. The leadership and the public alike believe that a sufficient nuclear capability will give the nation not only a sense of security against other nuclear countries but, more importantly, a solid foundation for exercising influence as a major power. Nothing illustrates more vividly how the Chinese leadership understands the nature of nuclear weapons than the pronouncement of Marshal Chen Yi, the Chinese minister for foreign affairs in the 1960s, that 'without that bomb, I cannot be very firm at the negotiating tables'. 2 It is a matter of debate whether this perception of nuclear weapons has changed in the post-Cold War

-85-

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The Armed Forces of China
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • The Armed Forces of Asia i
  • Title Page iii
  • Foreword v
  • Contents vii
  • Tables, Figures and Maps viii
  • Preface ix
  • Glossary of Acronyms xi
  • Introduction xv
  • 1 - Embracing Revolution in Military Affairs 1
  • 2 - Positioning the Pla for a 21st-Century War 28
  • 3 - In Search of High-Tech Military Power 56
  • 4 - Sharpening the Nuclear Sword 85
  • 5 - The Build-Up of an Offensive Air Force 118
  • 6 - The Ambition for a Bluewater Navy 160
  • The Pla and Regional Security 201
  • Conclusion 227
  • Notes 238
  • Bibliography 262
  • Index 282
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