Chinese Nuclear Doctrine, Weapons and Policies


  • The views expressed here belong solely to the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy of the US Government, Department of Defense, or the Air War College.


As the governments of the United States and Russia reduce their nuclear weapons inventories through negotiated arms control agreements, the Chinese government remains outside this strategic weapons trend while also continuing to modernize the People's Republic of China (PRC)'s nuclear weapons arsenal. Chinese policy, therefore, presents a number of dilemmas for global arms control. For example, given the PRC's lack of transparency, could Beijing be secretly building new missiles and warheads inside China's many miles of tunnels, and going for a first-strike capability or, in keeping with the PRC's announced doctrine of “minimal deterrence,” is Beijing simply hardening and modernizing the weapons capabilities it already has? This paper explores the public information and the debates about China's nuclear weapons as well as PRC nuclear proliferation behavior and agreements. The paper concludes with suggestions for encouraging more PRC nuclear transparency with the goal of producing a more stable situation.