The Hiroshima Report 2014 (PDF) can be downloaded from the following links:
--Report and Evaluations (in Japanese and English)
--Evaluation Sheet (in Japanese and English)
--Exective Summary (in Japanese and English)
The Hiroshima Report 2012 (PDF) can be downloaded from the following links:
--Report and Evaluations (in Japanese and English)
--Evaluation Sheet (in Japanese and English)

December 9, 2013

[Op-Ed] Fan Jishe, "China's Nuclear Policy: An Evaluation"

Even the international security environment has undergone dramatic changes since China detonated its first nuclear device about four decades ago, China's nuclear policy remains largely unchanged ever since. When evaluating the five Nuclear Weapon States' nuclear policy, scholars and commentators have quite different views. Some pay much more attention to the opaqueness of China's nuclear posture, while others argue the merits of China's transparency in strategic intention, and China's restraint in nuclear development.

In recent years, there are rising concerns of China's nuclear policy, especially after President Obama's Prague Speech, and the Global Zero Campaign. Many scholars, commentators, even government officials complained China's indifferent attitude toward these movements, and they expected China could take some actions either to echo President Obama's Prague Speech, or to endorse the Global Zero Campaign. China's lack of action is only part of the story. With the development of China's military capability, some begin to worry that China might build up its nuclear arsenal, even sprint to parity (matching the United States and Russia's nuclear capability in numerical sense), while the United States and Russia try to build down; others suspect that China might change its No First Use policy. Generally speaking, nuclear transparency remains the key concern for China observers, especially the information related to nuclear numbers and nuclear modernization programs.

These concerns are somewhat similar to "crying wolf," or a mirror image. When scholars, commentators or government officials discuss China's nuclear policy, they tend to apply their understanding of the development of U.S. or Russian nuclear policies, the route taken by these two countries, to China. In reality, if history provides a clue to the future, China's approach is very different from their ones. It is even safe to say that China has taken a very different approach from the other four nuclear weapon states.

Nuclear weapon is more of a political weapon for China than a military instrument to be used on battlefield. Thus, China's nuclear policy is more of a vague political guidance than an implementable operation plan. China does not view its relations with other countries through the lens of nuclear, and tries to downplay the nuclear dimension in China's foreign policy. Even though there are some blunders with regard to China's nuclear policy, none of those speakers represent China's official policy. Unlike the United States, China does not review its nuclear policy regularly, which Beijing thinks is very stable and subject to very limited change.

China's nuclear policy is a package covering every component of nuclear weapon, such as defining the role of nuclear weapons in national security strategy, nuclear development strategy, the use or non-use policy, nuclear disarmament, nuclear arms control, and so on. In Chinese government's declaration in October 1964, China clearly stated that nuclear war was preventable, nuclear weapon was for defensive purpose only, China would not use nuclear weapon first at any time and under any circumstances, and China supported the complete prohibition and total destruction of nuclear weapons.

If measured by American or Russian standards, China is much closer to the world free of nuclear weapons than the other four nuclear weapon states. China has conducted just two digits nuclear tests, the least among the five nuclear weapon states; China maintains a very small nuclear arsenal, about 240 nuclear warheads in total as indicated by the Hiroshima Report; China has kept the role of nuclear weapons to its "sole purpose," namely, its fundamental goal is to deter other countries from using or threatening to use nuclear weapons against China; and China's nuclear weapons maintains a very low alert level, and it is believed that China keeps nuclear warheads de-mated from delivery vehicles. In comparison with China, the other four nuclear weapon states still have a long way to go to narrow the role of nuclear weapons, to reduce the size of their arsenals, and to de-alert their nuclear weapons.

China attaches much more importance to transparency in strategic intentions rather than in capability, and China believes that it has been transparent enough in this regard. China takes universally accepted norms as the only guiding principle for nuclear issues including nuclear transparency and disarmament, so far there is no such principle yet. Certainly, United States is much more transparent than any other nuclear weapon states. However, its transparency is partially to meet requirement from American taxpayers, and partially to fulfill bilateral treaty obligations. Either U.S. or Russian nuclear transparency does not offset the fact that more than 95% of all nuclear weapons are in their arsenals, and more than 3,000 nuclear weapons are on a hair-trigger alert level. Although transparency in capability has its merits in confidence building, due to China's small nuclear arsenal and low alert level which make China's nuclear weapon vulnerable to the first strike, to be less transparent in capability is one way to maintain the survivability of China's nuclear weapons.

With regard to China's current nuclear arsenal, there were some hilarious, anything but serious, if not ridiculous, guesswork in the past two years, such as the number of 3000 nuclear weaponsconcluded by a Georgetown University study (large PDF), or the 1600-1800 warheads suggested by a Russian Colonel General (pdf). Neither real China Hands nor serious government officials take this guesswork seriously. Chairman Mao once said that one nuclear bomb was good enough if it could reach the enemy's territory. If China cares very much about numbers, then it will be difficult to explain why China maintains a very small nuclear arsenal in the past. One may argue that China did not build up its nuclear arsenal in the past only because China was technically and economically not capable to do so. Then, why does China choose not to do so when China is technically and economically capable? China has learned many lessons from the arms race between the United States and Soviet Union in the Cold War era, and China is not going to make similar mistake.

If there is anything that might have important impact on China's future nuclear posture, that will be missile defense which has the potential to neutralize China's minimum nuclear deterrence. China is still waiting to see the future development of missile defense systems and its relevance to nuclear disarmament. We do hope China will be encouraged rather than discouraged to maintain the present nuclear posture.

Fan Jishe is a Senior Fellow of the Institute of American Studies at Chinese Academy of Social Science and also Deputy Director of the Center for Arms Control and Nonproliferation Studies.

No comments:

Post a Comment