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China’s Nuclear Doctrine: Debates and Evolution

At present, there are ongoing debates in China about the future of China’s nuclear doctrine. The way these debates are eventually resolved will have important consequences for the future of China’s doctrine and arsenal.

by Liping Xia
Published on June 30, 2016

This piece is part of a compilation bringing together Regional Voices on the Challenges of Nuclear Deterrence Stability in Southern Asia.


At present, there are ongoing debates in China about the future of China’s nuclear doctrine. The way these debates are eventually resolved will have important consequences for the future of China’s doctrine and arsenal. This publication maps the current debates in three sections: first, a survey of the four schools of thought that influence China’s existing doctrine; second, an assessment of the current debates; and third, a forecast of how China’s nuclear doctrine is likely to evolve in the future.

The Key Features of China’s Nuclear Doctrine

China’s nuclear doctrine is the product of four different schools of thought: the self-defensive nuclear doctrine, the minimum nuclear deterrence doctrine, the counter-nuclear coercion doctrine, and, finally, a doctrine of limited deterrence. These schools of thought have influenced the creation of a doctrine focused on, among other things, committing to no first use, building a lean and effective arsenal, and maintaining a second-strike capability.

The first school of thought in China is the self-defensive nuclear doctrine. Sun Xiangli, a senior fellow at the Center for Strategic Studies at Beijing’s Institute of Applied Physics and Computational Mathematics, argues that China’s nuclear strategy is basically characterized by a no-first-use policy, a limited but effective nuclear force, and support for nuclear disarmament.1

The second school of thought is the minimum nuclear deterrence doctrine. For a long time, Chinese and U.S. nuclear experts have had problems communicating in their exchanges about nuclear doctrines, so some Chinese scholars and experts now try to explain China’s nuclear doctrine in terms of U.S. deterrence. For example, Major General Yao Yunzhu of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Academy of Military Science said that China maintains a minimum nuclear arsenal (which can be regarded as minimum nuclear deterrence), pursues a nuclear doctrine of retaliatory deterrence and pledges not to use nuclear weapons first, never intends to use nuclear weapons as an offensive capability, and does not extend its own nuclear umbrella to any other nation or seek one from another country.2

The author of this publication has similar views, arguing in 2010 that “China’s nuclear doctrine has a very strong continuity. On the other hand, China has made readjustments in its nuclear doctrine according to the changes of its internal and external situation and its general strategic threat perception. China’s nuclear doctrine has experienced a process of evolution from anti-nuclear blackmail to minimum deterrence.”3

Rong Yu of the Institute of International Strategy and Development at Tsinghua University and Hong Yuan of the Institute of American Studies at the China Academy of Social Science said that in order to correctly understand China’s nuclear strategy, it is necessary to think outside of existing systemic theories of nuclear order. Efforts to describe China’s doctrine in relation to Western ideas preclude a more in-depth understanding of China’s special case. Understanding China’s evolution from an anti-nuclear deterrence strategy to a minimum deterrence strategy requires accounting for the historical contexts in which these strategies were formed.4

A 2006 RAND Corporation study headed by James C. Mulvenon characterized the earliest Chinese nuclear strategy as “existential deterrence.”5 According to Mulvenon, Chinese strategy later evolved into “minimal deterrence” and is currently evolving further into “credible minimal deterrence.”6 This newest strategy, as it evolves, is not limited to the classic minimum deterrence view that nuclear weapons have the single function of threatening adversary cities to deter nuclear use.7

The third school of thought is a doctrine of counternuclear coercion. Li Bin of the Institute of International Studies at Tsinghua University argued that “there are varying descriptions of China’s nuclear strategy, which partially are due to terminological mismatches between the Chinese and the English.”8 Li Bin concluded—after analyzing the use of terms related to the role of nuclear weapons, tracing Mao Zedong’s nuclear doctrines, and exploring China’ s strategies in nuclear development and operations—that “China’s nuclear strategy is based on counter-nuclear coercion instead of minimum nuclear deterrence.”9

The fourth school of thought is the limited deterrence doctrine. Gao Yan, a writer of military science, wrote in 2004 that China’s current limited nuclear deterrence doctrine should evolve into comprehensive nuclear deterrence due to the nuclear threats from the United States over the issue of Taiwan.10

Mulvenon wrote, “More recent Chinese writings call for an aspirational doctrine of ‘limited deterrence’ (youxian weishe) comprised of counterforce, warfighting capabilities ‘to deter conventional, theater, and strategic nuclear war, and to control and suppress escalation during a nuclear war.’”11 But, he admitted, “The majority of available evidence suggests, however, that the modernization of China’s strategic nuclear forces is intended primarily to improve the country’s survivability, thus enhancing the credibility of China’s nuclear deterrent.”12

Mulvenon argued in 1995 and 1996 that “some Chinese strategists have advocated the development of limited nuclear warfighting capabilities.”13 He wrote in 1995 that China would place more importance on the capability to respond to different scales and levels of military threats, known as classification deterrence, and would turn to limited deterrence.14 For this reason, Johnson projected that China would develop a larger and more diverse arsenal including tactical nuclear weapons, and may revise both the no-first-use policy and second-strike-only mode of operation.15

In 2006, the Chinese government published China’s nuclear strategy for the first time, in the December 2006 white paper titled “China’s National Defense in 2006.” According to the white paper, China is:

Pursuing a self-defensive nuclear strategy. China’s nuclear strategy is subject to the state’s nuclear policy and military strategy. Its fundamental goal is to deter other countries from using or threatening to use nuclear weapons against China. China remains firmly committed to the policy of no first use of nuclear weapons at any time and under any circumstances. It unconditionally undertakes not to use or threaten to use nuclear weapons against non-nuclear-weapon states or nuclear-weapon-free zones, and stands for the comprehensive prohibition and complete elimination of nuclear weapons. China upholds the principles of counterattack in self-defense and limited development of nuclear weapons, and aims at building a lean and effective nuclear force capable of meeting national security needs. It endeavors to ensure the security and reliability of its nuclear weapons and maintains a credible nuclear deterrent force. China’s nuclear force is under the direct command of the Central Military Commission (CMC). China exercises great restraint in developing its nuclear force. It has never entered into and will never enter into a nuclear arms race with any other country.16

Similar to the nuclear doctrines of other nuclear-weapon states, China’s doctrine has five elements: declaration, nuclear development, nuclear deployment, nuclear employment, and nuclear disarmament.

The declared policy element of China’s nuclear doctrine is no first use. China pledges to use nuclear weapons only in self-defense. Since China developed atomic weapons, China has made it very clear that it will not use nuclear weapons first at any time and under any circumstance. No first use of nuclear weapons has strategic significance and is based on deep consideration.

The development element of China’s nuclear doctrine is to build a lean and effective strategic nuclear force. Chinese national security has depended mainly on a foreign policy of peace and the integrated power of people’s war.17 Nuclear force is one of the most important pillars of China’s armed forces. However, it is not the foundation or core of China’s national defense forces. In order to successfully deter other countries from launching nuclear attacks against China, China maintains a strategic nuclear force with the means to retaliate against nuclear strikes.

China has stuck to the principle of limited development for its nuclear weapons, attaching a lot of importance to building a lean and effective strategic nuclear missile force. China does not seek superiority through numbers in its nuclear force and does not want to engage in nuclear competition with other countries. The Chinese nuclear arsenal has stayed at the minimal size intended for self-defense because China has taken a very restrained attitude toward the development of nuclear weapons.

China’s weapons-deployment policy is focused on maintaining a second-strike capability; China is very serious about deploying and maintaining the capability of nuclear retaliation. China has never deployed nuclear weapons outside of its borders. In 1979, the Central Committee of the Chinese Communist Party made the decision to build the so-called underground Great Wall, which enables the Second Artillery Corps to survive and retaliate after weathering a first nuclear strike from an adversary.18

In the summer of 1995, the underground Great Wall project was completed, giving the Second Artillery Corps underground facilities for fighting, defending from attacks, maintaining a nuclear stockpile, commanding its nuclear forces, and living. China’s land-based strategic nuclear force can retaliate in as few as ten minutes after a nuclear strike, and soldiers from the Second Artillery Corps can live in bunkers for up to a month after a strike. Since 1995, China has had a true, reliable second-strike capability.

Hui Zhang, a researcher at Harvard University’s Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, described the infrastructure built by the underground Great Wall project:

These tunnels are hundreds of meters underground, in deep mountainous areas, and are difficult to detect from space. They can withstand nuclear and conventional attacks. The missiles, personnel, and related equipment can be transported by rails and trucks within the network of tunnels to various locations. All the activities for launch preparation can be done in the tunnels without detection. Some of the tunnels could also be used for logistical support or as command and control facilities.19

In addition to the tunnel system, road-mobile solid-fueled missiles (for example, the DF-31 and the DF -31A) “deployed around 2006 have significantly enhanced survivability relative to fix-based and silo-based missiles,” Hui Zhang wrote.20

Strategic nuclear submarines are also an important part of China’s second-strike capability. Submarines are beneficial for improving strategic stability between China and other nuclear powers. As Deng Xiaoping said, “Our strategy has always been defense and we will continue its strategic defense in the next twenty years, in which nuclear submarines are also weapons of strategic defense.” Because ballistic missile submarines (SSBNs) are the most important second-strike force, China can have better nuclear retaliation capability and be more confident about its no-first-use policy if it improves its SSBNs.

China’s policy for employing nuclear weapons is only in self-defense and retaliation. China has persisted in the principle of self-defense and retaliation throughout its nuclear history. The CMC directly commands and controls the nuclear forces of China. The Second Artillery Corps’ fundamental mission is to protect China from any nuclear attack. It abides by China’s policy of no first use of nuclear weapons, implements a self-defensive nuclear strategy, and strictly follows the orders of the CMC. In peacetime, the nuclear missiles of the Second Artillery Corps—recently renamed the PLA Rocket Force—are not aimed at any country. But if China came under a nuclear threat, nuclear missiles would be put into a state of alert in preparation for a nuclear counterattack in order to deter the enemy from using nuclear weapons against China. If China came under a nuclear attack, the nuclear missiles would be placed in a state of alert, and the Second Artillery Corps would prepare for a nuclear counterattack against the enemy either independently or together with the nuclear forces of other services.

According to A Guide to the Study of Campaign Theory, People’s Liberation Army doctrine requires that the Second Artillery Corps “operate and coordinate with air, ground and other defensive organizations under the direction of the CMC to implement a nuclear counterattack campaign.”21 The Second Artillery Corps has a system of three classes of readiness to which its units must adhere.22 Under normal conditions, the missile units are at third-class warning status. At this status, forces train, conduct exercises, and conduct normal maintenance. If the CMC receives a warning that an adversary may use nuclear weapons, the CMC directs units to raise their readiness levels to second-class warning status. At this status, units must move to firing positions (or at least prepare to move), many of which may be tunnels or prepared underground, protected positions. The highest readiness status is first-class warning. At first-class warning status, missile forces are fully ready to fire and are either deployed or in combat positions with their support elements, warheads, and fuel, waiting for a launch order.23 When firing units actually move to firing positions, the individual unit commanders are responsible for the security of their own units and must conduct a check of the firing status of each missile and warhead. They must report this status to the CMC headquarters.24 After firing their missiles, the unit commanders are to disperse and get the results of post-firing reconnaissance and new intelligence.25

Combat orders for a first-class warning must come through special command-department channels of the Second Artillery Corps or the PLA General Staff Department, but only the CMC can send a launch order.26 The combat order gives a current friendly and enemy situation, the status of the war, a determination on the use of nuclear force, the combat objectives for an attack, and the limits of an attack.27 The actual firing order will contain the time limits for each unit to fire and instructions for post-firing movement and disposition.28

Finally, the nuclear disarmament element of China’s nuclear doctrine is the ultimate goal of complete prohibition and thorough destruction of nuclear weapons. Since 1964, China has consistently called for the complete prohibition and thorough destruction of nuclear weapons. China was the first country to regard a nuclear-weapon-free world as the ultimate goal of its nuclear strategy.

Debates About Changes in China’s Nuclear Doctrine

In recent years, there have been debates about the elements of China’s nuclear doctrine among Chinese experts and scholars. The central feature of these debates is China’s no-first-use commitment. Since the end of the Cold War, new strategic factors have challenged China’s dedication to no first use.

Precision conventional weapons capability, especially the United States’ Conventional Prompt Global Strike, poses one new challenge. If a country targets China’s nuclear forces or their command and control systems with a conventional weapon, should China regard it to be tantamount to a first nuclear strike that deserves a nuclear response? Cyberweapons raise a similar question: how should China respond if its nuclear infrastructure is disabled by a cyberattack? A Chinese professor interviewed on condition of anonymity suggested to policy planners that China should consider a nuclear response if its strategic systems were attacked, even if that attack was by conventional means.29 Both the PLA and central government policy planners were cool to this idea, the professor said.30

Another new challenge is how China’s growing information technology capability interacts with the no-first-use policy in the event that China has advance knowledge of a nuclear strike. At what point should China judge that it is being attacked and therefore judge that retaliation is justified?

Because of these issues, Chinese experts and scholars argue that China should consider the possibility of changing its unconditional no-first-use policy, in favor of a no-first-use commitment with certain conditions. For example, if an adversary launches a Conventional Prompt Global Strike against China’s nuclear strategic system, China would regard the strike as a nuclear attack, so China would launch nuclear counterattacks.31

On the issue of no first use, U.S. scholar Larry M. Wortzel wrote that “there is wide acceptance of the doctrine of no first use at all levels of the PLA. Nonetheless, it is also apparent that nuclear strategists chafe at the doctrine and younger strategists, in particular, leave open in their writings the possibility that China may have to move away from this doctrine.”32

The Pentagon’s 2010 annual report on the Chinese military said, “The no-first-use nuclear policy is ambiguous and Chinese officials have not clarified it. . . . There is some ambiguity over the conditions under which China’s [no-first-use] policy would apply, including whether strikes on what China considers its own territory, demonstration strikes, or high altitude bursts would constitute a first use,” the report said.33 “Moreover, some PLA officers have written publicly of the need to spell out conditions under which China might need to use nuclear weapons first; for example, if an enemy’s conventional attack threatened the survival of China’s nuclear force, or of the regime itself. However, there has been no indication that national leaders are willing to attach such nuances and caveats to China’s no-first-use doctrine.”34 Mark Schneider of the National Institute for Public Policy even quoted what Sha Zukang, former Chinese ambassador to the United Nations in Geneva, said in August 2006—that if the Taiwanese declared independence, “[China] will do the business at any cost”—as evidence that the policy of no first use does not apply to Taiwan.35

The Chinese State Council Information Office omitted a reference to its no-first-use policy in the nuclear doctrine section of the 2013 white paper on China’s national defense, which was unveiled on April 16, 2013. Some U.S. experts argued that the omission indicated that Beijing had shifted away from the no-first-use policy as part of its large-scale nuclear arms buildup.36 However, in another white paper, “China’s Military Strategy,” unveiled two years later, the Chinese government made it very clear that “China has always pursued the policy of no first use of nuclear weapons and adhered to a self-defensive nuclear strategy that is defensive in nature.”37 The white paper went further, stating that

the nuclear force is a strategic cornerstone for safeguarding national sovereignty and security. . . . China will unconditionally not use or threaten to use nuclear weapons against non-nuclear-weapon states or in nuclear-weapon-free zones, and will never enter into a nuclear arms race with any other country. China has always kept its nuclear capabilities at the minimum level required for maintaining its national security. China will optimize its nuclear force structure, improve strategic early warning, command and control, missile penetration, rapid reaction, and survivability and protection, and deter other countries from using or threatening to use nuclear weapons against China.38

Before the first white paper was released in 2013, Harvard’s Hui Zhang added to the no-first-use debate, arguing that

it should be noted that, if a country really pledges a meaningful no-first-use policy, in practice, its force posture, including size, configuration, and readiness, would be significantly different from that with a first-use option. For instance, a force posture dominated by a meaningful no-first-use doctrine should have a much smaller and simpler arsenal with a much lower alert status. China has maintained a much smaller and simpler nuclear arsenal than the other nuclear weapon states and has de-mated its warheads from its missiles. The Second Artillery conducts war planning and training under the assumption that China will absorb a first nuclear blow and use its nuclear forces only to retaliate. All these facts indicate that China’s no-first-use pledge is true. The increased stockpiling of China’s conventional missiles by the Second Artillery could further enhance the credibility of its no-first-use pledge.39

China has good strategic reasons to continue following its traditional policy of no first use. First, China believes that the final results of wars are decided by people, not by advanced weapons and nuclear weapons. The most significant foundation for China’s national defense is the concept of people’s war. Therefore, a no-first-use policy could affect the results of wars in the future. Second, the sacred commitment to no first use reflects China’s commitment to having nuclear weapons for self-defense only and the notion that China was compelled by other actors to develop nuclear weapons as a deterrent. Third, China’s no-first-use policy allows China to hold the moral high ground in the international community. The countries and people that use nuclear weapons during invading wars will be viewed as pariahs in the years to follow. Finally, China’s ultimate goal for developing nuclear weapons is to destroy nuclear weapons. The policy of no first use is beneficial because it encourages the international community to share this objective.

Further Evolution of China’s Nuclear Doctrine

Maintaining International Strategic Stability

“The framework of strategic stability between major powers is the foundation of global strategic stability.”40 During the Cold War, strategic stability between major powers mainly meant stability, or lack thereof, between the United States and the Soviet Union. Since the end of the Cold War, both the United States and Russia have reduced their strategic nuclear weapons such that it is possible to avoid a nuclear arms race. All the while, major powers must still make serious efforts to avoid a security dilemma, which would lead to a renewed nuclear arms competition. Not only should major powers maintain international strategic balance and stability, they should also vigorously advance nuclear disarmament.41 China and the United States in particular should establish a nuclear relationship of both deterrence and cooperation. On one hand, the lack of strategic trust between the two countries created by tension over Taiwan means that they will form some kind of mutual nuclear deterrence. On the other hand, China and the United States have many common (or at least parallel) interests, so they will have to cooperate on issues including nuclear proliferation in North Korea and Iran, and international nuclear security and safety more generally.

U.S. Missile Defense System

The missile defense program being built by the United States will be detrimental to international strategic stability and security, and will have a negative impact on the process of nuclear disarmament. For example, if the United States increases the number of interceptors in its strategic missile defense system, China has to increase its arsenal of intercontinental ballistic missiles in order to maintain parity and an assured second strike. Effective second strike requires that China have a surviving arsenal of nuclear warheads that can penetrate the U.S. missile defense system in order to hit the United States in response to a U.S. first strike.42 Missile defense increases the stakes of second-strike capacity, because China has to have enough nuclear warheads to sustain the losses incurred by a first nuclear strike by the United States, and still have remaining missiles that can penetrate U.S. missile defense systems to hit the United States with at least one warhead. The United States will not be willing to be struck by a nuclear bomb in order to protect Taiwan, Japan, or the Philippines.


Tsai Ing-wen of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) was sworn in as president of Taiwan on May 20, 2016. Her promise to pursue Taiwan’s independence from China will inevitably strain relations between the United States and China, and may lead to Chinese-U.S. armed conflict. “Because the U.S. has the largest nuclear arsenal in the world and continues to pursue the nuclear strategy based on the policy of first-use of nuclear weapons, China has to maintain the minimum nuclear deterrence capability. If the U.S. increases the number of interceptors in its missile defense system, China has to raise its nuclear warhead count.”43 Chinese Major General Yao Yunzhu, a senior researcher at China’s Academy of Military Science, revealed in April 2013 that China is considering increases in the size of its arsenal for exactly that reason. “The current development, especially the deployment of missile-defense systems in East Asia would be, in Chinese eyes, would be a very, very disturbing factor having implications for the calculation of China’s nuclear and strategic arsenal,” she said at a conference at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.44

U.S. Conventional Prompt Global Strike

In recent years, the United States has made significant progress in developing its Conventional Prompt Global Strike capability.45 Because the United States can launch conventional strikes against China’s nuclear infrastructure, China has to create new options to deal with attacks in the future, perhaps by adding some conditions to its no-first-use policy.

The Role of Nuclear Weapons in China’s Military Strategy.

China’s nuclear doctrine exists in service of the national development strategy, national security strategy, national defense policy and military strategy of China.46 “Nuclear weapons have been playing an important role in China’s national and military strategy. However, they have not played a key role. China’s nuclear doctrine has gradually experienced the process of change from a counter-nuclear blackmail strategy to a minimum deterrence strategy. Now, the most important task of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) is to win partial wars. . . . Conventional forces are still the major implements used to win these kinds of wars.”47 The major task of China’s nuclear weapons “is to deter the enemy from launching an initial nuclear attack against China.”48

Conclusion: Trends in the Evolution of China’s Nuclear Doctrine

China will continue to pursue the policy of no first use of nuclear weapons and will adhere to a self-defensive nuclear strategy. However, China may consider adding some conditions to the policy of no first use. For example, if another country launches long-range precision conventional attacks against China’s nuclear infrastructure, China should regard it as a nuclear attack and conduct a nuclear counterattack against the country.49

If China and the United States can reach an agreement on a no-first-use commitment, China will not seek to be the United States’ peer in terms of number of weapons,50 and will even reduce its nuclear arsenal because China “regards the no-first-use of nuclear weapons as one of the principles of nuclear arms control and nuclear disarmament.”51 If the United States refuses to commit and maintains a large nuclear arsenal or deploys more interceptors as part of its missile defense system, China will have to increase its arsenal of nuclear warheads to some extent. As Li Bin explained, “When China explains its self-constraint with regard to the growth of its nuclear weapons stockpile, it always pledges that it will not engage in an arms race with other countries. By that, China means that it will not seek to amass a large nuclear arsenal for the purpose of global hegemony.”52

Li Bin continued by elaborating that China will continue to have a very different understanding of the concept of nuclear deterrence:

For a long time, Chinese and U.S. nuclear experts have had communication problems in their exchanges about the concept. The Americans generally believe that nuclear deterrence is a defensive posture while the Chinese criticize the offensive nature of nuclear deterrence…. Although some Chinese scholars and students have begun to use the U.S. security paradigm in academic research, the Chinese paradigm still dominates security policy research. Some Chinese nuclear policies and views cannot be explained by the U.S. security paradigm.53

China will make great efforts to maintain international strategic stability. Because U.S. missile defense threatens China’s nuclear retaliatory capability, China will focus on the development of the capability of nuclear retaliation as a means to maintain international strategic stability. According to the media, China’s road-mobile DF-41 intercontinental ballistic missiles have entered the final phase of testing and will enter service able to carry multiple warheads and strike targets 14,500 kilometers away. Hui Zhang added that China’s modernization also extends to its sea-based deterrent: “China will speed up the modernization of its sea-based strategic force to secure a second-strike force in the coming years.”54 China has been developing a third generation of strategic nuclear submarines, which is called the Type-096 Tang-class.

China is interested in both “strategic reassurance” and “mutual strategic restraint” between China and the United States.55 China and the United States are developing a new model of major-power relations, which should be characterized by peace, lack of confrontation, mutual respect, cooperation, and mutual benefit. The goal of “strategic reassurance” is to reassure China about U.S. strategic intentions, to give the United States reciprocal reassurances from China, and to develop confidence-building measures to sustain U.S.-Chinese strategic reassurance over the long term. Mutual strategic restraint includes mutual deterrence but places more importance on dialogue and reaching agreements between the two sides that will help avoid misjudgment and reduce fear, hostility, and mistrust.56 Chinese-U.S. nuclear relations must be established on the foundation of this new type of strategic stability, which prioritizes positive interaction and crisis management.

Liping Xia is dean and professor at the School of Political Science and International Relations at Tongji University in Shanghai. He is vice president of the Shanghai Institute for International Strategic Studies (SIISS), vice chairman of the Shanghai Association of International Studies, and vice president of the Shanghai Center for RimPac Strategic and International Studies (CPSIS). He is also a senior guest fellow at the Institute of International Technology and Economics in Center for Development Studies under the PRC State Council. He specializes in Asian security, nuclear nonproliferation, and China’s foreign strategy.


1 Sun Xiangli, “China’s Nuclear Strategy: Nature and Characteristics,” World Economics and Politics, no. 9 (2006): 28.

2 Yao Yunzhu, “China’s Perspective on Nuclear Deterrence,” Air & Space Power Journal 23,no. 4 (Winter 2009): 9–11.

3 Xia Liping, “On the Structure and Evolution of China’s Nuclear Strategy,” Contemporary Asia-Pacific, no. 4 (2010): 112.

4 Rong Yu and Hong Yuan, “The Evolution of China’s Nuclear Strategy: From Anti-Nuclear Deterrence to Minimum Deterrence,” Contemporary Asia-Pacific, no. 6 (2009): 120–32.

5 James C. Mulvenon et al., Chinese Responses to U.S. Military Transformation and Implications for the Department of Defense (Santa Monica, CA: RAND Corporation, 2006), 97.

6 Ibid.

7 Ibid.

8 Li Bin, “Identifying China’s Nuclear Strategy,” World Economics and Politics, no. 9 (2006): 16–22.

9 Ibid.

10 Gao Yan, “From Local War Under the High-Tech Conditions to the Assured Destruction Under Nuclear Situation—China’s Current Military Strategy Should Turn to the Comprehensive Nuclear Deterrence,” Tianya Forum, July 2004,

11 James Mulvenon, “Chinese and Mutually Assured Destruction: Is China Getting MAD?,”in Getting MAD: Nuclear Mutual Assured Destruction, Its Origins and Practice, ed. Henry D. Sokolski (Carlisle, PA:Strategic Studies Institute (SSI) of the U.S. Army War College, November 2004), 241.

12 Ibid., 250.

13 Mulvenon et al., Chinese Responses to U.S. Military Transformation, 98.

14 Ibid., 5–15.

15 Ibid.

16 “China’s National Defense in 2006,”Information Office of the State Council of the People’s Republic of China, December 29, 2006, 5,

17 People’s war is a strategy first developed by the Chinese Communist revolutionary and political leader Mao Zedong. The basic concept behind people’s war is to maintain the support of the population and draw enemies deep into the interior, where the population will bleed them dry through a mix of mobile warfare and guerrilla warfare. It was used by the Communists against the nationalist government in the Anti-Japanese War and the Chinese Civil War.

18 On January 1, 2016, the Second Artillery Corps was renamed the Strategic Rocket Force. Zhang Zhouxiang, “Rocket Force to Protect National Interests,” China Daily, January 5, 2016.

19 Hui Zhang, “China’s Nuclear Weapons Modernization: Intentions, Drivers, and Trends,” Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs,July 15, 2012,

20 Ibid.

21 Xue Xinglin, Zhanyi Lilun Xuexi Zhinan [A guide to the study of campaign theory](Beijing: National Defense University Press, 2002), 387–8.

22 Ibid., 389.

23 Ibid.

24 Ibid., 391.

25 Ibid.

26 Ibid., 153.

27 Ibid., 390.

28 Ibid.

29 Interview in China with anonymous professor by Larry M. Wortzel; Larry M. Wortzel, China’s Nuclear Forces: Operations, Training, Doctrine, Command, Control, and Campaign Planning (Carlisle, PA: Strategic Studies Institute (SSI) of the U.S. Army War College, November 2012), 27.

30 Ibid.

31 Xia Liping, “US Conventional Prompt Global Strike Plan Under the Perspective of High Frontiers Theory,” International Review,no.5 (2014): 5.

32 Wortzel, China’s Nuclear Forces, 27.

33 Quoted in Bill Gertz, “First Strike,” Washington Free Beacon, April 26, 2013,

34 Ibid.

35 “Taiwan: China Willing to Sacrifice Lives for Taiwan, Sha Says,” Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organization, August 21, 2006,; Mark Schneider, “The Nuclear Doctrine and forces of the People’s Republic of China,” Comparative Strategy 28, no. 3 (2009): 244–70.

36 “The Diversified Employment of China’s Armed Forces,” Information Office of the State Council of the People’s Republic of China, April 16, 2013, 6.

37 Song Miou, “Full Text: China’s Military Strategy,” Xinhuanet, May 26, 2015,

38 Ibid.

39 Zhang, “China’s Nuclear Weapons Modernization.”

40 Xia Liping, “On China’s Nuclear Doctrine,” Journal of China and International Relations 3, no. 1 (2015): 169.

41 Ibid.

42 Ibid., 169–170, 175.

43 Ibid., 178.

44 Gertz, “First Strike.”

45 Defense Science Board Task Force, Future Strategic Strike Forces (Washington, DC: Office of the Undersecretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology, and Logistics, Department of Defense, February 2004), 5–12; Zachary Keck, “US Navy Explores Sub-Launched Hypersonic Missiles,” Diplomat, February 4, 2014,

46 Liping, “On China’s Nuclear Doctrine,” 189.

47 Ibid.

48 Ibid.

49 Xu Nengwu and Huang Changyun, “Space Deterrence: U.S. Strategic Deterrence System Readjustment and Global Strategic Stability,” Foreign Affairs Review,no. 5 (2014): 78.

50 Gu Kegang (Gregory Kulacki) and Geoffrey Lewis, “No First Use of Nuclear Weapon – The Dilemma and Way Out of Nuclear Dialogue between China and the U.S.,” Foreign Affairs Review, no. 5 (2012): 101.

51 Xia Liping, “On the Structure and Evolution of China’s Nuclear Strategy,” Contemporary Asia-Pacific, no. 4 (2010): 126.

52 Li Bin, “Chinese Thinking on Nuclear Weapons,” Arms Control Today, December 3, 2015,

53 Ibid.

54 Hui Zhang, “China’s Nuclear Weapons Modernization.”

55 Kelley Currie, “The Doctrine of ‘Strategic Reassurance,’” Wall Street Journal, October 22, 2009,; Michael Green, Jim Steinberg, and Michael O’Hanlon, “Strategic Reassurance and Resolve: U.S.-China Relations in the Twenty-First Century,” Brookings Institution, May 5, 2014,; Yuan Peng, “‘Strategic Reassurance’ and the Future of China-U.S. Relations,” China Institute of Contemporary International Relations, October 2010, 1; David C. Gompert and Phillip C. Saunders, The Paradox of Power: Sino-American Strategic Restraint in an Era of Vulnerability (Washington, DC: National Defense University, January 2013), 3.

56 Ibid.