Chinese Nuclear Strategy, No-First-Use, and US-Chinese Nuclear

piegazeInternet and Web Development

Dec 7, 2013 (3 years and 4 months ago)

88 views
















Chinese Nuclear Strategy, No
-
First
-
Use, and US
-
Chinese Nuclear
Stability


By: Iacopo Lash




1

Introduction

The nature of China’s nuclear strategy has
major

implications for military,
political, and economic relations between China and the United States.

China
appears
to be the

most likely challenger to

United States
military
predominance

in
this century
,

as the Soviet Union was in the

last century
.

However
, there are
important difference
s

between
the relationships that the US currently has with
China and
that which it had with
the Soviet Union.


The
United States

and China are
more heavily dependent on each other economically than the U
S

and Soviet Union
ev
er were.

Moreover, the United States and China do not
have

a
deep ideological
antagonism

China is content so long as its sovereignty is respected
.

Both
countries, up until now, have benefitted from increased economic ties.

This would
seem to reduce the
chances for conflict

conventional or nuclear.

Noneth
eless, China

the world’s second largest economy

is still
rapidly
growing
,

and, as it does,
it
is translating

some of its ec
onomic power into military
muscle
.

Since the 1990s, China has increased its mil
itary budget almost every year
by double
-
digits

spending rose from over $30 billion in 2000 to nearly $120
billion in 2010.
1


As its economy is expected to continue to grow well into the future,
the Chinese government will have ample resources to devote to

its military forces.

Worryingly, this comes at a time when the US is facing its greatest nominal budget
deficit in history.


Chin
a has spent a significant amount of

money to create military
units that are more capable of regional force
-
projection.
2


Whil
e China currently has
the largest army in the world, with an active force of 2.3 million,
3

the Chinese
military is shifting development towards qualitative improvement in all sectors of
its armed forces

including nuclear
-
capable ballistic and cruise missil
es.

Many of
these systems have the technological sophistication to pose an existential threat to
US

military units. Thus, elucidating the

conditions

under which China would
use its



1

“The Dragon’s New Teeth”
The Economist
, (April 7
-
13
th

2012, US Edition),
p.
27

2

Kenneth

Lieberthal
.
Addressing U.S.
-
China Strategic Distrust.

(
Washington:
The Brookings
Institute, March 2012),
p.
2

3

“The Dragon’s New Teeth”,

Op Cit.,

p.

27


2

growing military power, and even more importantly
,

when
it would
use

nucl
ear
weapons, is extremely important to maintain peaceful US
-
Chinese relations.

I
t is not out of the question that changes in the strategic balance in East Asia
could spark tension between China and the United States

sometime in the distant
future
.

The possibility of conflict
c
ould become increasingly likely if China were to
threaten the core interests of American allies in the region, or if the United States
considered Chinese military advancements to be hostile.

China already has
suspicions that t
he US military presence in East Asia is positioned to contain and
control Chinese military power, and is actively developing area access and area
denial (A2/AD) capabilities to minimize this weakness.

Whatever the intent
ions

of
China or the United States,

both their military establishments have already been
actively, if subtly, preparing for potential conflict.

An ambiguous Chinese nuclear
strategy would make it difficult for the United States to avoid
inadvertently
provoking

China

during a crisis.

Given
these recent developments
, it is important to understand and reflect
upon China’s nuclear strategy and its no
-
first
-
use (NFU) policy.

Indeed, its nuclear
force development in the coming years will be shaped by its
nuclear strategy
.

Moreover, its nuclear
force structure can provide clues to its nuclear strategy.

Unlike Chinese conventional forces,

which at this point in time only have regional
reach,

Chinese nuclear forces have the capacity to reach the United States, and thus
deserve careful study. By be
tter understanding C
hina’s
NFU

policy

and its nuances,
the United States can better understand Chinese nuclear strategy, and perhaps
attempt
to increase military
-
to
-
military dialogue and even introduce

arms control

measures

in the future.



China’s Nucle
ar Strategy and No
-
First
-
U
se Policy


3

Since the
People’s Republic of China

first acquired a nuclear capability in
1964, it has consistently proclaimed a NFU policy, and has maintained that it will
continue to do so.

It has also publicly called for the abandonment of nuclear
weapons by all nations.
China has never clearly laid out other aspects of its nuclear
strategy, such as when, how, and where it would use nuclear weapons.
4


During the
Cold War,
China

believed it
s NFU policy to be
a vital component of its

capability to
deter an attack from the United States or the Soviet Union. The chance of an attack
by either state was very real

the US seriously considered using nuclear weapons
against China during the Korean W
ar and the Taiwan Strait Crises of 1954 and
1958.
5

The USSR

had also seriously considered a first
-
strike against China in 1969,
only to back down after the US made it clear such a move would start an all
-
out
nuclear conflagration.
6

In light of these very

real threats, China’s nuclear strategy
has always been based on

“minimum deterrence,” which is the ability to have a

counter
-
value

second
-
strike capability
. Theoretically, this allows for a smaller
nuclear arsenal that is only aimed at strategic targets,

like cities, and not another
state’s nuclear forces.

The two stated missions of the Second Artillery Corps, China’s nuclear forces,
is to deter a nuclear attack on China and to ensure a successful second
-
strike in the
event of a nuclear attack.
7

In ord
er to successfully carry out these two goals
, China
has always maintained

strategic ambiguity” in

its
nuclear force str
ucture and size
in order

to reduce the chance of a successful first
strike by another nuclear power.


This is also done

to
increase

the
survivability of
its nuclear forces, so that China may
carry out a second
-
strike if the need should arise
. China has also avoided



4

Chong Pin
-
Lin.
China’s Nuclear Weapons Strategy
. Lexington, MA: Lexington Books (1988), 42

5

Pan Zhenqiang. “No First Use of Nuclear Weapons” (Pugwash Meeting No. 279,
Nov. 2002)
http://www.pugwash.org/reports/nw/zhenqiang.htm#anchor9

6

Peter Foster and Andrew Osborne. “USSR

planned nuclear attack on China in 1969”
The
Telegraph

May 13 2010.

7

Yao Yunzhu “Chinese Nuclear Policy and the Future of Minimum Deterrence”
Str
ategic Insights
,
Volume IV, Issue 9
Sept. 2005
http://www.nps.edu/Academics/centers/ccc/publications/OnlineJournal/2005/Sep/yaoSep05.html#
references



4

distinguishing between gradations of nuclear attacks on
its territory
; all would
theoretically be met with a strategic
-
level
response.
8

For these reasons, the
approximate number or locations of Chinese nuclear

weapons has never been
divulged. Western estimates remain unverified to this day
.

The core Chinese principle governing nuclear strategy,
hou fazhi ren (




)
, or “gaining

mastery by counter
-
attacking,” is a more detailed expression of its
adherence to a policy of a survivable second
-
strike capability.
9

The mainstream
consensus is that China is serious about maintaining a second
-
strike capability only;
authoritative articl
es emanating from People’s Liberation Army (PLA) scholars
indicate that the Second Artillery will operate only
after

strikes on China have
occurred.
10

According to Evan Medeiros, a senior political scientist at RAND Corp., it
is most accurate to consider Ch
inese nuclear strategy in terms of sufficiency and
effectiveness, and not strictly a doctrine of “minimum deterrence.”
11

In other words,
in order to counter very specific threats, China may have developed or may soon
develop a wider range of nuclear armame
nts than would be strictly necessary under
a doctrine of minimum deterrence. PLA Colonel Yao Yunzhu supports this
conclusion when he states, “
China intends to possess nuclear weapons only at the
minimum (or lowest) level for the needs of self
-
defense, tha
t means to have the
minimum but assured capabilities for a retaliatory second strike.”
12

It therefore
follows that new technologies developed by its potential adversaries, such as
accurate and effective US conventional forces and missile defense, might cause
China to acquire very specific nuclear capabilities to counter these threats, assumi
ng
they both have the technological know
-
how and economic resources to do so.




8

Ibid.

9

Forrest Morgan et al.
Dangerous Thresholds: Managing Escalation in the 21
st

Century
. (Santa
Monica, CA: Rand Corp, 2008)

10

China’s Nuclear
Future
, edited by Paul Bolt, and Albert Wilner (New York: Lynne Reiner Pub,
2005) p. 60

11

Ibid., p. 56

12

Yao Yunzhu. “Chinese Nuclear Policy” Op. Cit.


5

China and India are the only nuclear weapons states with an explicitly
declared NFU policy. On the surface, China’s NFU

declaration

consists of two parts:
(1) it will never use

nuclear weapons first against any nuclear power, and (2) it will
never use or threaten to use nuclear weapons against any non
-
nuclear
-
weapon state
or within nuclear
-
weapon free zone. A 2006 Chinese Foreign Ministry white paper
declares that China “remain
s firmly committed to the policy of no first use at any
time and under any circumstances.”
13

And in support of this policy, China has
repeatedly pushed for the adoption

of NFU policies

by other states
.


Unlike the other
recognized nuclear powers,
China’s p
ublic nuclear doctrine is negativistic
;
that is, it
publicizes and emphasis negative factors: when it will
not

use nuclear weapons.
China stresses the weakness of its nuclear forces when compared to Russia and the
United States, while it quietly works on g
radual modernization of its forces. This is
chara
cteristic of the ancient Chinese saying, “The wailful army wins” [
Aibin bi sheng
]

(
哀兵必

)
.
14


In a further demonstration of its NFU intensions, in 1994, China approached
other Nuclear Non
-
Proliferation Tre
aty (NPT) signatory states with a draft
Treaty of
No First Use
, although only Russia gave initial support for the proposal. In
September 1994, China and Russia agreed to the Sino
-
Russian NFU and de
-
targeting
agreement, in which they both agreed to “
consis
tently fulfill their obligations not to
target strategic nuclear weapons against the other and not to use force against the
other, in particular, not to be the first to use nuclear weapons against the other
.”
15

Since China’s NFU position has been a longsta
nding one, from a strategic standpoint,
it is unlikely that its position will change in the immediate future. China would also
most likely wish to avoid a sudden shift in its doctrine, since this would undermine
worldwide nuclear stability, and therefore
increase the possibility of an undesirable



13

Richard Fisher.
China’s Military Modernization

Westport, CT: Greenwood Publishing Group,
2008) p. 77

14

Chong
-
Pin Lin,
p.
73

15

Sino
-
Russian Detarg
eting and No
-
First
-
Use Agreement
http://www.nti.org/db/china/chrusdet.htm


6

nuclear arms race with the United States, which would avert Chinese attention from
economic development.
16


But it would be a mistake not to seriously examine the challenges to China’s
official NFU policy
in the c
ontext of

an increasingly multi
-
polar global order. If, for
example, the PRC were on the verge of a conventional military defeat within its
borders, it is likely that China would, at the very least, consider the use of nuclear
weapons as a last resort. F
urthermore, the emergence of new threats has prompted
many within Chinese military circles to question its policy of
hou fazhi ren

(




)
, and its complementary NFU doctrine. Therefore, it would be prudent to assume
that Chinese policymakers

especially in

the face of serious strategic challenges

are constantly reexamining Chin
a’s NFU policy. For example, a

NFU policy makes
China vulnerable to a first
-
strike, especially if its nuclear arsenal were not
adequately dispersed or protected.
China’s

NFU policy
also constrains
its

ability to
counter a devastating non
-
nuclear attack. In addition, a more modern Chinese
nuclear arsenal may abrogate the necessity of an NFU policy altogether, if one were
to believe that China’s NFU policy merely stems from a weak nuc
lear capability, and
not a desire for NFU in and of itself. Serious questions can therefore be raised as to
if, and when, China would feel justified in launching a nuclear first strike. But,
before the ambiguities and divergent PLA opinions on NFU can be

examined, it is
important to review the nuclear policies of other states in order to better
understand how this affects China’s strategic thinking.



The US and its Evolving Nuclear Strategy


A Brief Introduction




16

Pan Zhenqiang. “No First Use of Nuclear Weapons” Op. Cit.


7

The United States undoubtedly has the mos
t advanced and capable nuclear
force in the world. According to the 2010 US
N
uclear
P
osture
R
eview (NPR), “The
fundamental role of US nuclear weapons, which will continue as long as nuclear
weapons exist, is to deter nuclear attack on the United States, [
its] allies, and
partners.”
17

Furthermore, nuclear first
-
use would be conceivable in response to
conventional, biological, or chemical attack
s
, or to preempt a nuclear attack.
Therefore, a preemptive counter
-
force strike in the event of an imminent threat
of
attack on the US or ally would be entirely acceptable under existing US nuclear
doctrine. A credible first
-
use option for the United States is meant to keep potential
adversaries in check, as well as reassure allies.

Currently, however, the US does not

have any credible challenges to its
conventional capabilities

which was a large factor in its reasoning for adopting a
first
-
strike strategy during the Cold War. The 2010 NPR has reflected this
conventional superiority by stating that:

“With the advent o
f U.S. conventional military preeminence and continued
improvements in U.S. missile defenses and capabilities to counter and
mitigate the effects of CBW [chemical
-
biological warfare], the role of U.S.
nuclear weapons in deterring non
-
nuclear attacks


conv
entional, biological,
or chemical


has declined significantly. The United States will continue to
reduce the role of nuclear weapons in deterring non
-
nuclear attacks.”
18

Admittedly, changes in official US doctrine concerning its current first
-
strike stance

have been modest. Many from within the arms control community were
disappointed when President Obama and his closest aides
ruled
-
out the
introduction of a

NFU policy

in advance of the most recent N
PR.
19

Furthermore,
current US nuclear policy, much like c
urrent Chinese policy, has a degree of
“calculated ambiguity” built into it

which, in general, may be considered a vital
component of any nuclear strategy. However, despite its refusal to sign a bilateral



17

Nuclear Posture Review (NPR) US Department of Defense, April 2010, p. vi

18

Ibid, p. viii

19

“White House is Rethinking Nuclear Policy”
The New York Times.

February 28 2010
http://www.nytimes.com/2010/03/01/us/politics/01nuke.html


8

NFU agreement with China on multiple occasions, so
me actions by the US have
increased nuclear stability. For example, in 1998, the United States signed a non
-
targeting agreement with China. While somewhat lopsided in terms of benefit

the
US can change its targets in a matter of minutes while it takes mu
ch longer to
mobilize, fuel, and aim Chinese nuclear forces
20

the agreement nonetheless
represented an important confidence building measure. China, up until then, had
been opposed to a non
-
targeting agreement that was not coupled to a
complementary NFU ag
reement.
21


The debate on wheth
er or not the US should adopt a

NFU
policy
has
periodically flared in recent
US political discourse
, but for the time being, it is
extremely
unlikely that
the United States would adopt a

NFU policy. Critics of a no
-
first
-
use
policy cite the need for the US to maintain a credible extended deterrence
for its allies in Europe and Asia. Without this deterrence, they argue, many of its
allies
, such as Japan,

would decide to develop nuclear programs of their own.
22

Furthermore, a

N
FU policy is one that can be changed at will (and with little
warning) if the need may arise, and therefore carries little weight except as a
diplomatic “feel
-
good” measure.

Many US scholars and arms
-
cont
rol proponents have argued that

with the
absence of
large
-
scale conventional enemy forces as seen in the Cold War, the US
has little use for retaining a first
-
strike option. The dual tenets of credibility and
stability, which are crucial to US nuclear policy, would not necessarily be harmed by
the adoption

of a no
-
first
-
use policy.
23

In addition, US conventional superiority rules
out the necessity of any nuclear first
-
strike in any non
-
nuclear confrontation. A
potential big gain to a US NFU policy is that it would have a profound effect in



20

Phillip Karber. Lecture,
Georgetown University

February 2011

21

“US
-
China Non
-
Targeting Agreement” h
ttp://www.nti.org/db/china/chusdet.htm

22

Michael Gerson. “No First Use: The Next Step for Nuclear Policy”
International Security
,
volume 35, issue 2 (2010) p.

12.

23
Michael Gerson. http://belfercenter.ksg.harv
ard.edu/files/No_First_Use.pdf


9

stabilizing conf
rontations between the US and other nuclear powers such as Russia
and China as any chance of a deliberate or accidental first
-
strike would be avoided.


As the argument goes, not only is a first
-
strike option less pertinent in the
current nuclear environme
nt, but it also may lead to dangerous nuclear escalations.
Indeed, a seminal article by former high
-
level US officials McGeorge Bundy, George
Kennan, Robert McNamara, and Gerard Smith
published in
Foreign Affairs

in 1982,
argued that it would be impossible for any nuclear confrontation to remain limited.

24

Therefore, the authors recommended a serious examination of the merits of a no
-
first
-
use policy with the USSR in Europe. The United States, while currently
re
jecting a policy of NFU, has agreed to “negative security assurances” whereby it
will “not threaten to use nuclear weapons against non
-
nuclear states that are party
to the NPT and in compliance with their
nuclear non
-
proliferation obligations.”
25


A Brief
Ana
lysis of Other Nuclear P
olicies: North Korea, the United Kingdom,
France, and Russia


In an increasingly multi
-
polar world, it is worth briefly analyzing the nuclear
policies of Russia and the second
-
tier nuclear states, and how they relate to Chinese
a
nd US nuclear policy.

India is now an established nuclear powe
r with the capability
to reach C
hin
a with its newly developed IRBM, the Agni V
.

North Korea

tested its
first nuclear device in 2006.

North Korea’s failed launch of a satellite points to their

aspirations to develop an ICBM, which could have unsettling consequences for the
United States and its allies.

North Korean nuclear development increases tension on
the Korean peninsula could be a source of antagonism between North Korea and its
supporte
r

China

and the United States and South Korea.

Despite past
vacillations in North Korean official policy
, North Korea

has pledged to never use



24

McGeorge Bundy, George F. Kennan, Robert S. McNamara, and Gerard Smith, “Nuclear
Weapons and the Atlantic Alliance,” Foreign Affairs, Vol. 60, No. 4 (Spring 1982)
http://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/36184/mcgeorge
-
bundy
-
george
-
f
-
kennan
-
robe
rt
-
s
-
mcnamara
-
and
-
gerard
-
c
-
sm/nuclear
-
weapons
-
and
-
the
-
atlantic
-
alliance?page=show


25

2010 NPR, Op. Cit., p. viii


10

nuclear weapons first, and to avoid transferring nuclear technology to others.
26


The
recent transfer of power fo
r Kim Jong
-
il’s son, Kim Jong
-
un, has made North Korea’s
recent thinking on nuclear strategy unclear.

However, if the attempted launch of the
Unha
-
3

satellite
-
carrying

missile is any indication, North Korea is try
ing hard

to
expand its delivery capabiliti
es.


The United Kingdom has developed what it considers to be a minimum
deterrent against aggressors. It employs both submarine
-
based missiles as well as
nuclear weapons that can be deployed on its Tornado jet
-
aircraft.

The UK has four
V
-
class SSBN, equ
ipped with 16 Trident missiles.

The UK is planning to modernize
its SSBN force by replacing its submarine launched Trident missile force in the
coming years.

The United Kingdom has not adopted a NFU policy, but it is clear that
the UK would not use its n
uclear force first unless in utter desperation.
27

France, while maintain a
force de frappe
, is reducing its total warhead count
to 300, will dismantle fission production sites, and cease fissile production.
28

Despite this, France is steadfastly committed to retaining an independent deterrent
capability. Nuclear weapons remain symbols of international status for the French
and a vital means of security.
29


As part of its
tous azimuts

[
in all directions
] nuclear
policy, t
he French nuclear force is not targeted at any country in particular, but
would be

directed at any force that may “attempt coercion of aggression against
France.”
30

France, like the United Kingdom, has not adopted a no
-
first
-
use policy.

The nucle
ar policies of France, the UK, and the US are closely linked through their



26

“World warns of robust response”
Herald Sun

Oct. 9 2006
http://www.heraldsun.com.au/news/more
-
news/world
-
warns
-
of
-
robust
-
response/story
-
e6frf7lf
-
1111112333171

(Accessed May 7 2012)

27
John

Hopkins

and Weixing Hu, eds.
Strategic Views from the Second
-
tier

London: Transaction
Publi
shers, 1995., p. 135

28

“France’s position on Nuclear Weapons.”
Wikileaks

http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/us
-
embassy
-
cables
-
documents/218931

(Accessed May 7, 2012)

29
John

Hopkins
and Weixing Hu, eds.
Op. C
it
.
,

p. 19

30

Ibid., p. 25


11

NATO alliance.

The 1999 NATO Strategic Concept made the formal nuclear doctrine
of France
, the UK, and the US

clear when it stated:

“The fundamental purpose of the nuclear forces
of the Allies is political: to
preserve peace and prevent coercion and any kind of war. They will continue
to fulfill an essential role by ensuring uncertainty in the mind of any
aggressor about the nature of the Allies' response to military aggression…

Th
e supreme guarantee of the security of the Allies is provided by the
strategic nuclear forces of the Alliance.”
31


Russia has not adopted a NFU policy, and instead, has thought about
widening the potential uses of nuclear weapons.

Nikolai Patrushev, the se
cretary of
Russia’s Security Council,
has
publicly s
tated

that Russia was considering expanding
the use of nuclear weapons to “local conflicts.”
32


However, in
the

most recent
release of its Military Doctrine, Russia tightened the scenarios in which it woul
d use
nuclear weapons, limiting it to situations when “the very existence of [Russia] is
under threat.”
33


Russia reserves the right to use nuclear weapons in response to
events other than nuclear attack, such as the use of chemical or biological weapons.

A

growing number of
nuclear
-
armed powers

can only add complications

to
any
potential
agreement between the United States and China.

The United States
will have to be able to respond to any threat around the world
, and as a result, it is
exceedingly likely
that it will continue to have a NFU policy
.

China, on the other
hand, may have to reconsider its own NFU policy

especially in light of
the nuclear
policies and aspirations of

regional neighbors:

Russia,
Iran, North Korea, Pakistan,
and India. Of course,

a NFU policy is not a st
ructural restraint to Chinese forces, as it

can be easily reversed
in times of crisis
.

The danger of a NFU policy
would be if
China were
to structure its nuclear forces around its NFU pledge. In that case,
China




31

Bruno Tertrais. “A Comparison Between US, UK, and French Nuclear Policies and Doctrines.”
CERI

March 2007.
http://www.ceri
-
sciences
-
po.org/archive/mars07/art_bt.pdf

(Accessed May 7
20
12)

32
Nicolai

Sokov
. “The New 2010 Russian Military Doctrine: the Nuclear Angle”
CNS

Feb 5 2010
http
://cns.miis.edu/stories/100205_russian_nuclear_doctrine.htm

(Accessed May 7 2012)

33

Sokov, op. cit.


12

would have little a
bility
to preemptively

respond to threats

in an increasingly
unstable environment
.


With this in mind, a Chinese NFU policy may have to be
significantly modified.

In fact, there are many ambiguities in China’s NFU policy
already, many of which make it
essentially meaningless.

Ambiguities in China’s NFU P
ledge

Many arms control scholars and military analysts have que
stioned China’s
commitment to a

NFU policy. By its very nature, any NFU policy is highly symbolic,
unverifiable, and can be changed at will
. If China were to break its NFU pledge, it
would be too late to do anything about it. Indeed, China’s historic commitment to
NFU may be less a product of true commitment than due to its inherent nuclear
structure. For example, when compared to Russia a
nd the United States, a relatively
modest amount of nuclear forces (hundreds, and not thousands, of warheads) may
make the chance of any successful Chinese first
-
strike highly improbable. In this
line of reasoning, China has nothing to lose by declaring a
n NFU policy.

Although the end of the Cold War has brought a reduction in the overall level
of global nuclear tension, China now finds itself surrounded by more nuclear states
that any other country in the world. Additionally, the threat of conflic
t with the
United States over Taiwan has not abated. In the words of Mr. Medeiros, “Chinese
leaders and military planners appear to treat NFU as a constraint, but it is not clear
when and how it applies to actual combat situations.”
34

Indeed, the position

of PLA
insiders differs on how NFU is to be applied to combat situations.

There are a few prominent examples of internal debate within the Chinese
military spilling into the public domain as to what would be sufficient provocation
to initiate a first stri
ke in certain circumstances, although it is important to note that
official Chinese NFU policy remains unchanged. In July of 2005,
during a press
briefing, Major General Zhu Chenghu, a dean at China's National Defense University,



34

China’s Nuclear Future
, Op. Cit. 68


13

while causing quite a dip
lomatic stir, provided valuable insight into relatively recent
Chinese thinking on its NFU policy.

In his briefing to western media, Gen. Zhu, a
known PLA hawk, said that China’s NFU policy only really applied to non
-
nuclear
states, and a serious re
-
exami
nation of its policy should be considered, especially in
light of any possible US defense of Taiwan.
35

Furthermore, he stated that, “
If

the
Americans draw their missiles and position
-
guided ammunition on to the target
zone on China's territory, I think we
will have to respond with nuclear weapons.”
36

While Gen. Zhu’s statements do not represent official Chinese policy, they
nonetheless provide a key insight into Chinese military thinking, and seem to
contradict its stated NFU policy. According to some sour
ces, Gen Zhu’s statements
reflect popular sentiments within the PLA.
37


Other prominent figures in the PLA also question the utility of an
unconditional NFU pledge. Maj. General (Ret.) Pan Zhengqiang, former
Director of
the Institute of Strategic Studies a
t the PLA National Defense University, presents
three potential scenarios when China may have to re
-
examine its NFU policy.

All
have to do with increasingly effective US conventional first
-
strike technology as well
as missile defense.

China’s current NFU

policy would not permit nuclear retaliation
even in the event of a US conventional first
-
strike on China’s nuclear capabilities, US
intervention in Taiwan, or the introduction of a nuclear missile defense system in
concert with a limited US first
-
strike.
38

Understandably, therefore, some in the
Chinese military believe that China’s existing NFU policy seriously constrains
China’s capability to effectively respond to these potential US threats.



According to comments made by Cai Yuqui, the vice principal
of Nanjing
Army Command College, in an interview with the People’s Republic of China
-
backed



35
Stephanie Lieggi. “Going beyond the stir: the strategic realities of China’s no
-
first
-
use policy”
Nuclear Threat
Initiative

December 2005 http://www.nti.org/e_research/e3_70.html

36

“Top Chinese general warns US over attack”
The Financial Times

July 14, 2005
http://www.ft.com/cms/s/2/28cfe55a
-
f4a7
-
11d9
-
9dd1
-
00000e2511c8.html#axzz1IwyCMlfw


37

Lieggi. “Going beyond the stir” Op. Cit.

38

“No
-
First
-
Use” http://www.nti.org/db/china/nfuorg.htm


14

Hong Kong newspaper
Ta Kung Pao

(
大公報
)
, he suggests that although China’s NFU
policy still stands, it should be conditional and flexible during any crisis. In
particular, he believes that a “rigid ” nuclear doctrine would leave China vulnerable
in particular areas, especially during tactical engagements that directly harm the
sovereignty of China.
39


As China regards the South China Sea and Taiwan as
sovereign te
rritory, a nuclear first
-
strike in these regions should not be out of the
question. Some in the Chinese military establishment even consider Chinese
warships and aircraft as constituting part of its territory.
40

China would not
necessarily have to wait to

be attacked, either. According to Professor Ting Wai of
Hong Kong Baptist University, NFU allows for the launch of Chinese nuclear missiles
during the “early warning period, when it is clear that enemy missiles have been
launched toward China but have no
t yet arrived.”
41

Chinese military officials have
supported this sentiment by saying that China’s nuclear counterattack may be
launch
-
on
-
warning or launch
-
under
-
early attack.
42

A central tenet of Chinese
nuclear strategy,
hou fazhi ren
, has been reinterpre
ted by a few strategists within
the PLA to allow for a preemptive strike before the enemy has launched an
imminent attack, as declared in the 2001 version of
The
Science of Strategy
[Zhanlüexue]
(



)
,
a Chinese military journal.
43

It states that, “s
econd
strike
upholds the principle of not firing the first shot, but by no means is equivalent to
abandoning the advantage of first opportunity in campaigns or tactics.”
44


However,
while
it should be noted that although this passage was not directly referring



39

Wu Pin.
PRC Military Scholar on Tactics Views Defense Issues

CPP200708
06710004

Hong Kong

Ta Kung Pao (Internet Version
-
WWW)

in

Chinese Aug 1, 2007

40

“Top Chinese General Warns US over Attack”
The Financial Times

Op. Cit.

41

China’s Nuclear Future
. Op. Cit. p.151. For more information, see:
http://military.china.com/zh_cn/news/568/20040309/11639769.html


42

Alistair Johnson. “China’s New ‘Old Thinking’: the Concept of Limited Deterrence” http://0
-
www.jstor.org.librar
y.lausys.georgetown.edu/stable/2539138?seq=17

43

Michael Chase and Evan Medeiros.
China’s Evolving Nuclear Calculus: Modernization and
Doctrinal Debate

in James Mulvenon and David Finklestein, eds.,
China’s Revolution in Doctrinal
Affairs: Emerging Trends i
n the Operational Art of the People’s Liberation Army

(Alexandria, VA,
CAN Corp., 2005).

44

Ibid, p. 151.


15

di
rectly to nuclear weapons, it nonetheless raises doubts about their NFU
commitment.

In effect, the ambiguities of China’s NFU pledge are a product of its nuclear
strategy. As any NFU pledge is inherently passive in nature, an effective and
complementary
nuclear strategy demands “early warning, dispersal, and
concealment, and the utter lack of transparency on the size of China’s nuclear
forces.”
45

If Chinese nuclear capabilities do not have all of these qualities, then its
NFU pledge can be seriously quest
ioned. And, if the United States is seen to have a
clear first
-
strike superiority, then China may, in fact, have already put in place a
preemptive first
-
strike concept, despite its suicidal implications, until its forces can
be sufficiently modernized.
46


Clearly, it is undeniable that there are many voices within China’s military
calling for a reevaluation of its NFU policy. Although China’s official stance remains
unchanged, the government must address these counterarguments, as an
ambiguous NFU policy c
ould be extremely dangerous in a moment of crisis. A more
transparent and nuanced Chinese NFU policy would without a doubt help to avert
such crises from occurring in the first place.




Ramifications of
Chinese Nuclear Development on the Balance of P
ower

and
the
Credibility of its

NFU
Policy

While the true number of nuclear weapons China possesses is a closely held
secret, the 2011 issue of
The Military Balance

estimates that China has 448 ICBM,
MRBM, SLBM, and LACM deliverable nuclear weapons.

The
majority of these
weapons are medium and short
-
range weapons, as China is believed to have only 66
ICBMs capable of reaching the United States.
47


This level of strategic nuclear forces,



45

Alistair Johnson, op cit
., p. 21

46

Alexei Arbatov. “Non
-
First Use as a Way of Outlawing Nuclear Weapons”
www.icnnd.org/Documents/Arbatov_NFU_Paper
.rtf

47

The Military

Balance 20
11.

(London: International Institute for Strategic Studies, 2010)
, p. 230


16

if well protected against a first
-
strike,
is believed to provide

China

with an effective
second
-
strike capability, although China cannot be said to have strategic parity with
the United States.

However, if China were to rapidly increase the number of
strategic nuclear weapons it possessed, or it became known that China has
a much
larger amount than previously thought, this could trigger
widespread instability and
would seriously undermine its stated NFU pledge
.

China continues to update its theater ballistic missile forces.

China’s self
-
imposed limit on strategic nuclear weapons could lead to increased development of
dual
-
use tactical nuclear weapons.

And unlike the United States and Russia, China is
not a member of the INF treaty.

This means that
China

has

no restrictions
on the
quantity or quality of intermediate and shorter
-
range nuclear weapons, and only
provides further incentive to develop an advantage in weapons categor
ies

important
for an

area
-
access/area denial

(
A2/AD
)

strategy.

Moreover, Chinese
leadership has rec
ognized the utility of tactical nuclear weapons since the 1950s.


The PLA has actively integrated tactical nuclear weapons into
its

conventional force
structure, and Chinese doctrine outlines their use in both defense and offensive
scenarios.
48


According t
o the
2009 edition of
Ballistic and Cruise Missile Threat
,
issued by the National Air and Space Intelligence Center, China has the most active
missile development program in the world, and is rapidly increasing the number of
missile types, along with impro
ving the quality and quantity of their ballistic and
cruise missile force
s
.
49


China has traditionally “leapfrogged” its nuclear development
, adding
another source of instability to US
-
Chinese relations
.

In other words, China has
skipped many intermediate steps in technological advancement;
when compared to
US nuclear weapons development
China’s initial bomb test in 1964 used the “more



48

Chong
-
Pin Lin, op cit., p.101

49

National Air and Spac
e Intelligence Center
Ballistic and Cruis
e Missile Threat

(2009)

<

http://www.fas.org/programs/ssp/nukes/NASIC2009.pdf
>
, p. 3


17

sophisticated triggering technique of implosion a
nd enriched uranium (U

235)
.”
50

The development time between its atom bomb and hydrogen bomb test was only 32
months.

This fact is more even impressive considering that Chinese forces were a
relatively unsophisticated force without modern conventional forces for the first
half
of the 20
th

century.

If China surprises the world with similar innovation
s
, this
could be
very

destabilizing to the balance of power.

The realization that Chinese
ICBMs, as of 1980, could reach the United States
’ mainland

challenged previous
assumptions
that China employed a strategy of regional minimum deterrence.
51

Rapid advancements in the future could similar
ly

challenge assumptions that China
has a nuclear force structure that matches its NFU pledge.

Yet another reason to question China’s NFU pledge i
s the possibility that
China’s ballistic missile forces are dual
-
use.

While many
missiles
currently carry
conventional warheads, the
se

could be rapidly armed with nuclear warheads.

China’s

DF
-
21 IRBM is being succeeded by a new version that may have MIRV

capability, which would allow China to rapidly increase the number of deliverable
nuclear warheads.

Furthermore,
China is attempting to increase the scope of its
short
-
range ballistic missile capabilities by adding more sophisticated payload,
increasing
missile accuracy, and improving missile ranges.
52

Western estimates
place the numbers of DF
-
11s and DF
-
15s (SRBMs) at approximately 900 missiles
and 200 launchers.
53

Moreover, China’s significant deployments of short
-
range
dual
-
capable missiles places China
’s NFU policy into question. The primary function
of tactical nuclear weapons, as was NATO’s strategy during the Cold War, is to slow
the advance of opposing conventional forces.

For example, theater nuclear weapons



50

Cho
ng Pin
-
Lin, p. 45

51

Chong
-
Pin Lin, Op C
it., p. 48

52

Department of Defense.
Annual Report to Congress: Military and Security De
velopments
Involving the People’s Republic of China 2011


<

http://www.defense.gov/pubs/pdfs/2011_cmpr_final.pdf>
,
p.
30

53

Shlapak, David A., David T. Orletsky, Toy I. Reid, Murray Scot Tanner, and Barry Wilson.
A
Question Balance: Political Context and Military Aspects of the China
-
Taiwan Dispute

(RAND
Corp., 2009
)

<
http://www.rand.org/pubs/monographs/2009/RAND_MG888.pdf
>
,

p.

34


18

deployed along the Chinese
-
Soviet bord
er were most likely intended to be used in
response to a Soviet invasion.
54


While the PLA withdrew its forces from the
Northern Chinese border, the claim to a NFU policy remains highly suspect if China
were to be invaded.

Chinese tactical nuclear superiority could radically alter the balance of power
in eastern Asia during any potential conflict.

If tactical nukes were to be used on US
allies or US forces, the United States could do little besides escalating to a full
-
scal
e
strategic nuclear exchange with China. Even without this occurring, the United
States would have a significant credibility gap in its nuclear strategy.


Without the
option for an adequately scaled response, the United States may not decide to risk
the de
struction of major US cities in defense of its Asian allies.

Thus, the United
States would be forced to increase tactical nuclear forces in order to pose a credible
deterrent to Chinese aggression against regional US allies.

Examination of
the
Feasibility

of I
ncreasing

US
-
Chinese

N
uclear
S
tability
in the
Short
-
T
erm

Overall, despite apparent discrepancies in PLA
missile force structure, as well

as
PLA

thinking about NFU and its application, it would be high
ly unlikely for China
to make a public

about
-
face o
n NFU policy
in the near future
.


China’s NFU policy
assures strategic stability, limits spending on nuclear weapons and accompanying
technology, and allows Beijing to take the moral high ground on the world stage.
55

A

Chinese first
-
use option would neithe
r support its current diplomatic nor strategic
interests

assuming that the PRC does not and will not develop the necessary
technology and nuclear stockpiles for a first
-
use nuclear strategy in the near future.

Recent technological advancements by China ar
e increasingly challenging these
assumptions. Thus, believing that China will maintain its NFU pledge indefinitely
requires

a large leap of faith by the United States.




54

Chong
-
Pin Lin, Op. C
it., p. 99

55

Lieggi, “Going beyond the stir” Op Cit.


19


T
he nuclear strategy of the United States will
also
remain on the same
trajectory
barring any sudden catastrophe. To be sure, the fundamental role of US
nuclear weapons, according to the 2010 NPR, “is to deter nuclear attack on the
United States, our allies, and partners.”
56

It is the position of the United States that
an NFU would be
contrary to this vital goal. As such, it is reasonable to believe that
the United States will likely not adopt an NFU for quite some time.

The current nuclear balance, barring sudden quantitative or qualitative
advancements by either side, is relatively
stable.

China has persistently tried to
maintain a minimum means of repris
al against the United States. Indeed, t
he United
States is not capable of overcoming China’s vast tunnel network and highly fortified
nuclear stockpiles in order to undertake a suc
cessful first
-
strike.
57


If the United
States were to radically improve its first
-
strike capability and threaten China’s
deterrent strategy, this would provide a strong incentive for an increase in the size
and quality of Chinese nuclear forces
, and to chan
ge its nuclear strategy accordingly
.

Jeffrey Lewis, the Director of the East Asia Nonproliferation Program at the Center
for Nonproliferation Studies, believes that China would

not significantly

alter its
force structure

unless it was under immediate dure
ss.
58


The current US
-
Chinese nuclear balance would suggest that a

bilateral
Chinese
-
US NFU is not a realistic policy option for the time being
.


T
he United States
has little strategic interest
, or reason,

in adopting a NFU policy in the near future,
despit
e the possible gains in building tr
ust with China. Yet, even if a

NFU agreement
is impossible, a noble near
-
term goal would be to increase overall nuclear stability
and transparency. Bilateral, but limited inspections, as well as increasing dialogue
on n
uclear safety and proliferation issues would be have profound confidence
building and stabilizing effects in US
-
Chinese

relations.

Increased dialogue between



56

2010 NPR, Op. Cit., p. vii

57

Lewis, Jeffrey.
China’s Search for Security in a Nuclear Age

Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2006,
p. 201

58

Ibid, p. 202


20

the US and China on strategic issues
, especially between high
-
level military figures,

would help
to promote an atmosphere of stability and deter
rence between the two
countries
.
59


Importantly, this would in no way harm the strategic interests or
significantly alter the existing foreign policy goals of the US. In support of this, the
2010 NPR has state
d that “by promoting strategic stability with Russia and China…
we can help create the conditions for moving toward a world without nuclear
weapons.”
60



A Template for

a B
ilater
al NFU in the Long
-
Term

In the decades to come, efforts at a bilateral

NFU pair
ed with technical arms
control may offer a realistic yet meaningful way in which to promote

long
-
term

nuclear stability between the US and China. As NFU

declarations

can be changed at
will, more technical agreements would add credibility to any bilateral
NFU
agreement
, as they could be more easily verified
.

A series of bilateral nuclear
proliferation and policy agreements with China

similar in scope to those between
the U.S and Russia

could

be considered in tandem with a

NFU

policy

in the longer
-
term policy goals of the United States.

Ratifying the
Comprehensive Nuclear
-
Test
-
Ban Treaty (
CTBT
)
, for example, would prov
ide an avenue for further talks.


The
CTBT calls on signatories to end all nuclear test explosi
ons or other nuclear
e
xplosions, and
its ratification would require significant technical burdens to US and
Chinese nuclear forces.
61


A limited NFU agreement, paired with verifiable
conditions, could enhance confidence, improve transparency, and reduce mistrust
between the US a
nd China.

China’s participation at the United Nations Conference on Disarmament
between 1993 and 2003, and negotiations concerning the CTBT and Fissile Material
Cut
-
off Treaty (FMCT) could offer a template for negotiations for a
n

NFU



59

Ibid
.
, p. 204

60

Ibid., p. vi

61

Ibid
.
, p. 204


21

arrangement paired wit
h technical constraints.

The CTBT represented the first time
that China accepted
in principle
a constrain
t

on its military capabilities.
62


Ultimately, however, China and the United States only agreed to the CTBT once their
needs for testing were complete.
63


Ultimately, any NFU agreement between the
United States and China will depend on it satisfying the security goals of each nation.
A NFU agreement will follow

changes to

nuclear force size and structure, and not the
other way around. For example, if the

US were to significantly reduce the size of its
nuclear arsenal, and shift towards a counter
-
value targeting strategy, a NFU
agreement would become a realistic policy option.

The United States
, for security
and domestic reasons,

would not undergo such a
radical change to its nuclear force
structure any time soon
.

But a
s China matures into a global power in the coming
decades of the 21
st

century, it would be wise for the United States to consider the
possibility of an eventual NFU, however unlikely given
current circumstances.


If the
time comes, a

NFU
agreement
could be crafted to meet the specific concerns of the
United States while simultaneously reducing tension between the US and China.







62

Ibid
.
, p. 88
. China signed but did not ratify the CTBT.

63

Ibid
.
, ch. 4


22

Bibliography

Arbatov
, Alexei
. “Non
-
First Use as a Way of
Outlawing Nuclear Weapons”
www.icnnd.org/Documents/Arbatov_NFU_Paper.rtf


“Ballistic and Cruise Missile Threat”

National Air and Space Intelligence Center

(2009)

<

http://www.fas.org/programs/ssp/nukes/NASIC2009.pdf
>

(Accessed March 10
2012)


Bolt, Paul

and Albert Wilner
, eds.
China’s

Nuclear Future
,
(New Yor
k: Lynne Reiner
Pub, 2005)


Chase
, Michael

and Evan Medeiros.
China’s Evolving Nuclear Calculus: Modernizatio
n
and Doctrinal Debate

in James Mulvenon and David Finklestein, eds.,
China’s
Revolution in Doctrinal Affairs: Emerging Trends in the Operational Art of the
People’s Liberation Army

(Alexandria, VA, CAN Corp., 2005).


Chong Pin
-
Lin.
China’s Nuclear Weapo
ns Strategy
. Lexington
, MA: Lexington Books
(1988)



Department of Defense.
Annual Report to Congress: Military and Security
Developments Involving the People’s Republic of China 2011


<

http://www.defense.gov/pubs/pdfs/2011_cmpr_final.pdf
>

(Accessed

April
25 2012)


Fisher, Richard
.
China’s Military Modernization

Westport, CT: Greenwo
od Publishing
Group, 2008)


Foster
, Peter

and Andrew Osborne. “USSR planned nuclear attack on China in 1969”
The Telegraph

May 13 2010.


“France’s position on Nuclear Weapons.”
Wikileaks

http://www.guardian.co.uk
/world/us
-
embassy
-
cables
-
documents/218931

(Accessed May 7, 2012)


Gerson
, Michael
. “No First Use: The Next Step for Nuclear Policy”
International
Security
, volume 35, issue 2 (2010)

http://belfercenter.ksg.harvard.edu/files/No_First_Use.pdf

(Accessed April
10 2012)


Hopkins, John and Weixing Hu, eds.
Strategic Views from the Second
-
tier

London:
Transaction Publishers, 1995., p. 135



23

Johnson
, Alistair
. “China’s New ‘Old Thinking’: the Concept of Limited Deterrence”
http://0
-
www.jstor.org.library.lausys.georgetown.edu/stable/2539138?seq=17


Karber, Phillip
. Lecture,
Georgetown University

February 2011


Lewis, Jeffrey.
China’s Search for

Security in a Nuclear Age

Cambridge, MA: MIT
Press, 2006, p. 201


Lieberthal, Kenneth.
Addressing U.S.
-
China Strategic Distrust.

(
Washington:
The
Bro
okings Institute, March 2012)


Lieggi
, Stephanie
. “Going beyond the stir: the strategic realities of Chin
a’s no
-
first
-
use policy”
Nuclear Threat Initiative

December 2005
http://www.nti.org/e_research/e3_70.html


McGeorge Bundy, George F. Kennan, Robert S. McNamara, and Gerard Smith,
“Nuclear Weapons and the Atlantic Alliance,” Foreign Affairs, Vol. 60, No. 4
(Spring 1982)
http://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/36184/mcgeorge
-
bundy
-
geor
ge
-
f
-
kennan
-
robert
-
s
-
mcnamara
-
and
-
gerard
-
c
-
sm/nuclear
-
weapons
-
and
-
the
-
atlantic
-
alliance?page=show



The Military Balance 2011.

(London: International Institute for Strategic Studies,
2010)


Morgan
, Forrest

et al.
Dangerous Thresholds: Managing Escalation i
n the 21
st

Century
.
(Santa Monica, CA: Rand Corp, 2008)


“No
-
First
-
Use”
Nuclear Threat Initiative
http://www.nti.org/db/china/nfuorg.htm

(Accessed March 15 2012)


Nuclear Posture Review (NPR) US Depart
ment of Defense, April 2010

http://www.defense.gov/npr/docs/2010%20nuclear%20posture%20review
%20report.pdf

(Accessed May 3 2012)


Pan Zhenqiang. “No First Use of

Nuclear Weapons” (Pugwash Meeting No. 279, Nov.
2002) http://www.pugwash.org/reports/nw/zhenqiang.htm#anchor9



Shlapak, David A., David T. Orletsky, Toy I. Reid, Murray Scot Tanner, and Barry
Wilson.
A Question Balance: Political Context and Military
Aspects of the China
-
Taiwan Dispute

(RAND Corp., 2009 )

< http://www.rand.org/pubs/monographs/2009/RAND_MG888.pdf
>



24

Sino
-
Russian Detargeting and No
-
First
-
Use Agreement
(Accessed May 6 2012)
http://www.nti.org/db/china/chrusdet.htm



Sokov, Nicolai. “The New 2010 Russian Military Doctrine: the Nuclear Angle”
CNS

Feb 5 2010
http://cns.miis.edu/stories/100205_russian_nuclear_doctrine.htm

(Accessed
May 7 2012
)


Tertrais
, Bruno
. “A Comparison Between US, UK, and French Nuclear Policies and
Doctrines.”
CERI

March 2007.
http://www.ceri
-
sciences
-
po.org/archive/mars07/art_bt.pdf

(Accessed May

7 2012)



“The Dragon’s New Teeth”
The Economist
, (April 7
-
13
th

2012, US Edition)


“Top Chinese general warns US over attack”
The Financial Times

July 14, 2005
http://www.ft.com/cms/s/2/28cfe55a
-
f4a7
-
11d9
-
9dd1
-
00000e2511c8.html#axzz1IwyCMlfw



“US
-
China Non
-
Targeting Agreement” http://www.nti.org/db/china/chusdet.htm


“White House is Rethinking Nuclear Policy”
The New York Times.

February 28 2010
http://www.nytimes.com/2010/03/01/us/politics/01nuke.html

(Accessed
April 20 2012)


“World warns of robust response”
Herald Sun

Oct. 9 2006
http://www.heraldsun.com.au/news/more
-
news/world
-
warns
-
of
-
robust
-
response/story
-
e6frf7lf
-
1111112333171

(Accessed May 7 2012)


Wu Pin.
PRC Military Scholar on Tactics Views Defense Issues

CPP20070806710004

Hong Kong

Ta Kung Pao (Internet Version
-
WWW)

in

Chinese
Aug 1, 2007


Yao Yunzhu “Chinese Nuclear Policy and the Future of Minimum Deterrence”
Strategic Insights
, Volume IV, Issue 9
Sept. 2005
http://www.nps.edu/Academics/centers/ccc/publications/OnlineJournal/20
05/Sep/yaoSep05.html#references

(Accessed May 1 2012)