Tuesday, September 3, 2019

China’s Nuclear Program :: Asian Studies Foreign Policy

China’s Nuclear Program Introduction China's nuclear weapons program has always been unique among the programs of the five official nuclear weapons states recognized by the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. For a variety of economic, political, and cultural reasons, the Chinese program has had a very different trajectory of development, with different objectives, than those of the other major powers' nuclear weapons and missile programs. China's nuclear and ballistic missile programs are and have historically been based on the objective of maintaining a level of nuclear deterrence just great enough to preclude any threats by the nuclear "super" powers. By concentrating on building and maintaining a minimum level of effective deterrence, China can ensure its security while concentrating the maximum amount of its available resources on much more pressing issues, such as economic development. As a developing country, China did not and does not have the resources to compete as a "third superpower" in the Cold War world. The Chinese, who for many of the years before 1978 could hardly afford to feed their own people, simply could not afford to spend huge sums of money in a costly arms race which they were almost certain to lose. Limited deterrence offered the most efficient solution - just enough capability to reap the security benefits of deterrence while avoiding the costs of producing, maintaining and storing huge s tockpiles of nuclear weapons. Why nuclear? The Chinese have always been afraid of invasion of their territory - one of the first projects of the Emperor Qin Shi Huang Di, the first ruler of a united China, was the construction of a vast Great Wall to keep out nomadic barbarian raiders from Inner Asia...in 200 BC. As a rich agrarian empire, and the most populous nation in the world, China has presented a rich target for outsiders for thousands of years, from the Xiongnu of Christ's time to Genghis Khan, to Western imperialists and Japanese warlords. The Chinese Communist leadership which came to power in 1949 after a lengthy and bloody civil war grew up during a very tumultuous period in Chinese history. They witnessed the decline of Chinese power within Asia and over its own territory, the fall of the imperial government which had governed China on and off for more than 2000 years, and the encroaching western imperialist powers who began to declare "spheres of influence" through the "unequal treaties" system.

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