China’s Evolving Approach to Nuclear War-Fighting

Posted by ap507 at Nov 22, 2017 11:25 AM |
China is dismantling the barriers impeding a war-fighting posture. Does that spell the end of No First Use, questions Dr James Johnson from our School of History, Politics and International Relations
China’s Evolving Approach to Nuclear War-Fighting

Military vehicles carrying DF-10 ship launched cruise missiles drive past Tiananmen Gate during a military parade to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II in Beijing (Sept. 3, 2015). Image Credit: AP Photo/Andy Wong, Pool

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For decades, minimal deterrence, de-mated nuclear warheads, and a no-first-use pledge have formed the bedrock of China’s nuclear posture. China’s conventional deterrence posture, in contrast, has been characterized by war-fighting, pre-emption, asymmetry, and the development of offensively configured conventional capabilities. Recent evidence indicates that these postures are far more integrated, flexible, and dynamic than Beijing’s official rhetoric suggests, and that during the past decade a de facto shift toward a limited nuclear war-fighting (or the use of nuclear weapons for victory denial purposes at all stages of warfare) posture has already taken place.

The closer alignment of these postures would accomplish Beijing’s regional military objectives articulated in its defense strategic concept — including the use of asymmetric and pre-emptive tactics during future “informatized” high-intensity warfare — and link geographically dispersed military forces for joint operations.

If Beijing modified its nuclear forces to meet the operational requirements of a war-fighting doctrine (e.g., sizable deployments of low-yield nuclear weapons and missile-defense capabilities, or the adoption of a launch-on-warning nuclear posture), Washington would indubitably view it as a radical shift in China’s longstanding nuclear posture, and thus, a fundamental challenge to the military balance in the Asia-Pacific region...


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