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Going Beyond the Stir: The Strategic Realities of China's No-First-Use Policy

Stephanie Lieggi

Monterey Institute of International Studies

The Strategic Realities of China's No-First-Use Policy The Strategic Realities of China's No-First-Use Policy
Source: Radio Free Asia

Introduction

At a press briefing in Beijing in July 2005, Major General Zhu Chenghu, a dean at China's National Defense University (NDU), reportedly threatened the use of nuclear weapons against the United States in the context of a Sino-U.S. military conflict over Taiwan. Zhu was widely quoted as making the assertion that "if the Americans draw their missiles and position-guided ammunition on to the target zone on China's territory, I think we will have to respond with nuclear weapons," and that "we [...] will prepare ourselves for the destruction of all of the cities east of Xi'an. Of course the Americans will have to be prepared that hundreds ... of cities will be destroyed by the Chinese."[2]

Zhu's remarks, which took place at an event for the international press in Beijing, caused a media stir, particularly in the United States and Taiwan. Wall Street Journal reporter Danny Gittings, who asked one of the questions that garnered the controversial response, wrote that "it was clear to those of us who witnessed [Zhu's] warning that it was no accidental outburst."[3] According to Gittings, in response to his question about potential Chinese tactics if conflict arose over Taiwan, Zhu stated that due to China's limited conventional capabilities in comparison to overwhelming American military power, it would have to consider the use of nuclear weapons in the event of war with a much stronger United States. When questioned further, Zhu continued that China's long-held "no-first-use" (NFU) policy could be changed, noting that the policy had really only applied to non-nuclear weapon states.[4] Many commentators pointed to Zhu's statements as a sign that China may be rethinking its NFU policy and preparing for war with the United States.

Zhu's statements, even if taken out of context as he now claims, were highly provocative.[5] U.S. Department of State spokesperson Sean McCormack called these remarks "highly irresponsible" and expressed the hope that that they did not represent the views of the Chinese leadership.[6] While many analysts dismissed Zhu's hawkish remarks as "bravado,"[7] others argued that they deserve careful attention as they may provide insight into the People's Liberation Army's (PLA's) thinking and planning.[8] At least one Chinese academic was quoted as saying that Zhu's view reflected that of the majority of Chinese.[9] Other commentators pointed to Zhu's statements as representing a common PLA sentiment.[10] Still others infer Zhu's remarks as a harbinger to major change in China's nuclear weapons policy.[11]

The Chinese government distanced itself from Zhu's statement and officials were quick to point out that his remarks were not official policy. The Chinese Foreign Ministry indicated shortly after Zhu's remarks were published that these were his personal views.[12] Foreign Minister Li Zhaoxing stated pointedly that China's NFU policy had not changed, and would not change in the future.[13] According to a report by China's Xinhua News Agency, Li reiterated that Zhu was stating his personal view and not the official Chinese government position.[14] In an interview with the People's Republic of China-backed Hong Kong publication, Ta Kung Pao, Zhu claimed that his remarks had been taken out of context. The same article went on to note that Zhu's function was now purely administrative and another military commentator interviewed by the same paper strongly reiterated that China will not be the first to use nuclear weapons and that Beijing's nuclear arsenal is for self-defense only.[15]

During a visit by U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld to China in October 2005, Chinese military officials hosting the delegation were adamant about China's continued abidance to its NFU pledge. This point was most notably mentioned while Rumsfeld and his delegation became the first U.S. officials to tour the headquarters of China's strategic nuclear force—the Second Artillery Corps.[16]

China tested its first nuclear weapon on October 16, 1964. The test was immediately followed by a promise by Beijing not to be the first to use nuclear weapons "at any time or under any circumstances." This statement has been reiterated consistently by Chinese leaders and diplomats during the last four decades. In the official Chinese press, any suggestion of a reassessment of this policy has been shown little credence. However, many China-watchers and security experts argue that it may become untenable for China to remain bound to its earlier pledge.

Analysts and researchers have speculated in the past about Chinese military planners' discomfort with the country's NFU policy.[17] Many postulate that faced with certain defeat in a conventional conflict over Taiwan, Beijing would quickly abandon its NFU policy in order to avoid losing its "renegade province."[18] Others point to remarks such as Zhu's as an indication that no such policy exists and that China is busily preparing itself for nuclear war fighting scenarios and hence has been developing its capabilities accordingly.[19]

Keeping in mind Beijing's rebuff of Zhu's comment, the question remains as to what his statement meant—if anything—about Chinese nuclear doctrine.[20] To fully assess the current status of China's NFU policy, it is important to go beyond the rhetoric coming from all sides of the debate. The NFU policy has been a part of China's nuclear doctrine for over four decades. Despite massive changes in China since then, many of the factors that dictated Beijing's doctrine in the past still impact policies today. These factors—including deterrence capabilities, resource limitations, regional stability, and perceptions of what is best for China strategically—continue to guide China's nuclear doctrine.

NFU and the Limits on China's Nuclear Posture

Beijing often points to its NFU policy as proof that China—in apparent contrast to the United States and Russia—is a "peace-loving" nation that is "pursuing a foreign policy of peace."[21] Affectation and propaganda aside, "no-first-use" was both conditioned by necessity—a small nuclear arsenal—and by policy, since China's nuclear weapons were not meant to go beyond countervalue (i.e., city-busting) minimum deterrence. China's NFU policy has therefore been governed less by altruism than by other limiting factors.

China began its nuclear weapons program in the mid-1950s out of concern that both the Soviet Union and the United States would use their nuclear weapons to blackmail Beijing into submission in the event of a conflict. After years of humiliation at the hand of foreign powers, as well as U.S. threats to use nuclear weapons against China during the Korean War, the first generation of PRC leaders, particularly Mao Zedong, wanted to avoid having China become a target for intimidation by the two superpowers. In addition to concerns over nuclear blackmail, Beijing also saw the possession of nuclear weapons as a means to establish itself as a major power.[22]

China established its strategic missile force, the Second Artillery Corp in 1966—within two years of its first nuclear test and in the midst of the Cultural Revolution. Although technically a nuclear weapons state, China's political upheavals and resource limitations meant that its nuclear arsenal remained rudimentary for decades. Lacking an elementary delivery capability or a significant sized arsenal—combined with a general mistrust of foreign pressure—Beijing was resistant to actions by the international community which would restrain China's build-up of a minimum nuclear deterrent. As a result, Chinese leaders in the 1960s and 1970s were skeptical of arms control and nonproliferation, believing they were tools for the two superpowers to assure their superiority. Beijing refused to accede to the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) when it opened for signature in 1968 (before finally joining the treaty in 1992) and, into the 1980s, viewed the proliferation of nuclear weapons as a way of balancing power in the international arena.

Despite this early suspicion of international arms control, China could not afford an unlimited arms race and tempered its nuclear weapons programs with a number of declaratory policies. Since its first declaration in 1964, Beijing has consistently reiterated its NFU policy and has proposed that the other nuclear weapon states make a similar pledge. While France, the United Kingdom, Russia, and the United States have refused to make NFU pledges, both Moscow and Washington did conclude separate de-targeting agreements with Beijing in the late 1990s. China has also given unconditional pledges to non-nuclear weapon states that it would not use or threaten to use nuclear weapons against them (often referred to as "negative security assurances").[23] Chinese leadership consistently argues that its nuclear forces are meant for self-defense and to avoid falling victim to "nuclear blackmail."[24]

Keeping in mind that Beijing's NFU policy, security assurances, and de-targeting agreements are impossible to verify and largely symbolic, their importance to China's defense posture should not be underestimated. Beijing has never clearly articulated its nuclear doctrine with regards to deployment and retaliation, although its international activities and domestic programs have indicated that China has only limited options in the use of its nuclear weapons. While debate persists in the security community as to whether China's nuclear doctrine represents a "minimal deterrence" or "limited deterrence"—the latter allowing for nuclear war-fighting in limited circumstances[25]—most realistic assessments of China's current nuclear capabilities (and its capabilities in the near future) raise questions about the reliability and survivability of its retaliatory forces, let alone an ability to engage in protracted nuclear exchanges with a nuclear superpower such as the United States.

In order to fight a protracted nuclear war—particularly to start such a war by an offensive attack against the United States or one of Washington's allies in the region—China would need a significantly more sophisticated and much larger nuclear and missile arsenal. According to analysts familiar with China's nuclear policy, this would require a significant change in China's strategic planning.[26] Indeed, China's reliance on policies such as NFU and other confidence-building measures does not require a massive nuclear build-up. Excluding a nuclear build-up leaves resources available to the PLA so it can strengthen other aspects of its military capabilities that would be more realistically employed in a conflict over Taiwan.

The Calculus of NFU: Can China Afford to Abandon It?

China's NFU policy has served Beijing's strategic interests well during the last four decades. By relying on a policy that kept its nuclear forces to a minimum, China has reserved its resources for force modernization while avoiding the destabilizing brinkmanship and "balance of terror" that characterized much of the U.S.-U.S.S.R. relationship during the Cold War. For China, keeping a modest program "fostered both crisis and arms race stability."[27] After the fall of the Soviet Union, concerns about being drawn in to a nuclear rivalry with the United States reinforced the importance of maintaining limiting policies such as NFU. Likewise, China's "no-first-use" policy has allowed Beijing to portray itself as a non-threatening international player, even as it builds-up its conventional forces and modernizes its military.

Discarding its NFU policy would mean Beijing would have to make a significant resource commitment to nuclear weapons modernization both quantitatively and qualitatively. This change would have important implications for China's arms control and nonproliferation policy. For instance, greatly increasing the existing nuclear arsenal would make Beijing hesitant about participating in and negotiating a fissile materials cut-off treaty since such an international commitment would impose a ceiling on the amounts of weapons-grade fissile material China could have and hence the number of nuclear weapons it could possess. This move would have negative effects on China's ability to push through efforts it has seen as important, such as a treaty on the prevention of an arms race in outer space.

China would also likely have to cope with other international backlash from such a change in policy. Abandoning NFU could unleash a cascade of events that could threaten China's overall strategic stability. To achieve flexibility and survivability, and to obtain escalation dominance—the ability to prevent tactical use of nuclear weapons from precipitating strategic nuclear exchange—would require a complex restructuring of China's existing nuclear arsenal, especially in the area of command and control. Activities toward this purpose would be difficult to hide from other countries. Beijing's actions would raise a great deal of alarm and indeed could trigger an arms race with the United States—and potentially a rethinking of the nuclear options of its neighbors in the region. All these factors have played—and will continue to play—into China's nuclear posture and military thinking in the short- and long-term.

Economic development and growing defense budgets to some extent have relaxed previous economic constraints that helped fortify NFU within Beijing's nuclear doctrine. However, as a potential indication that Beijing is not moving toward a radical reassessment of its nuclear doctrine, China's nuclear arsenal, while improving, has not kept pace with the country's economic progress. Beijing's political leadership appears unwilling to devote extensive resources to building an arsenal large enough to realistically counter U.S. forces. Given the existing massive gap between U.S. and Chinese strategic nuclear capabilities, discarding NFU without acquiring nuclear war fighting capabilities would be clearly detrimental to Beijing's short-term deterrent posture. In many ways, Beijing's NFU policy has worked not only as a restraint on military planners and military budgets, but it has compelled the PLA to concentrate its resources on improving the reliability and survivability of its current nuclear arsenal.

Estimates vary as to the ultimate size of China's nuclear arsenal, but it will likely remain relatively modest unless there is significant expansion of the current U.S. national missile systems, which Beijing views as a direct threat to China's ability to deter U.S. nuclear forces. According to recent estimates from the U.S. Department of Defense, China has less than 50 missiles capable of hitting the entire United States.[28] Presently, about 30 ICBMs are deployed by Chinese forces. These missiles are silo-based using liquid propellant. Due to such technical limitations, they must remain un-fueled and the warheads decoupled from their delivery vehicles.[29]

China's modernization of its conventional forces has been moving forward at a strong pace. Beijing has focused on improving and acquiring systems that will allow it to pose a conventional threat to U.S. forces in a stand-off over Taiwan. The PLA continues to increase the number of short-range ballistic missiles deployed against Taiwan, with current estimates at over 700, and growing at a rate of 100 each year. Beijing has increased its focus on improving its fighter aircraft and anti-ship weapons. China's naval assets are also an important part of the military modernization—with military planners looking to extend China's reach by improving its submarine fleet and acquiring and deploying Russian-made destroyers.

China's current efforts vis-à-vis its nuclear arsenal remain primarily focused on improving the survivability and mobility of its existing strategic nuclear forces in order to achieve a "credible" deterrent by the end of this decade.[30] Even this modest improvement, however, would have to be undertaken with the consideration of such intervening factors as competing domestic spending priorities that would come at the expense of a significantly expanded nuclear arsenal. While many analysts point to the fact that China's growing economy will give Beijing greater resources for its nuclear arsenal, competing economic factors—factors more directly related to assuring domestic social and political stability—will continue to limit the resources that can be spent on a build-up of China's nuclear arsenal.

The weaknesses in the Chinese nuclear force structure—such as the lack of a credible nuclear submarine fleet—greatly limit China's ability to launch a nuclear war with the United States. These limitations should not be underestimated, and the efforts to overcome them would be a significant drain on China's ability to sustain economic development. In a recent report by the RAND Corporation, these factors, which include the expanding burden of providing social benefits to a graying population, will mean that "military spending will be tightly constrained because of these competing demands for government spending," even with the assumption that the Chinese economy will continue to grow significantly.[31]

Beijing's budgetary process is increasingly weighed down by a variety of non-defense related government spending priorities.[32] While some skeptics argue that China's authoritarian leadership will ultimately use the "barrel of a gun" to pacify its population, Beijing's leadership is increasingly aware that regime legitimacy rests on a mixture of nationalism and economic progress. Without the latter, China's Communist Party leadership will have an increasingly difficult time maintaining its political authority. As China's economic progress depends more and more on its human resources and entrepreneurial class, diverse societal demands should be expected to play a greater role in public policy.

Much Ado About Very Little: "Los Angeles for Taipei" All Over Again?

In 1996, the U.S. media reported that a Chinese military officer had, in the presence of former Assistant Secretary of Defense Charles Freeman, threatened to attack U.S. cities with nuclear weapons. Reports on the comments—often attributed to General Xiong Guangkai, although the identity of the Chinese official has never been confirmed by Freeman—often claim that the official threatened nuclear attack against Los Angeles if there were a conflict over Taiwan. Freeman later clarified that the comment came after a debate with a number of Chinese military officers, and that it was not meant as a threat to preemptively attack a U.S. city.[33] However, despite Freeman's assertions, the comments have been used by numerous analysts to bolster a theory that China's nuclear doctrine is offensive and not defensive.

Unlike this earlier incident, Major General Zhu Chenghu made his remarks in a public forum in the presence of the international press. Despite Zhu's later backpedaling and claim he was misquoted, he appeared to have made his statement fully understanding how his comments were to be reported. Miscommunication of the comments was therefore not an issue as it was in the 1996 case. However, overestimations of the relevance of these two different incidents on China's nuclear doctrine have been comparable.

Despite some media reports touting Zhu as a "top general," Zhu is not considered to be a significant figure in the policy-making apparatus that controls military planning and nuclear doctrine. In making his comments, the general—dean in charge of international fellows at China's NDU—is therefore commenting from outside of the policy-making system. In this context, Zhu's remarks could be seen as an illustration of China's public determination regarding its "break-away province." It is not, however, an indication of a dramatic shift in policy, nor—as was true in the often misquoted "Los Angeles" statement—a direct offensive threat to the United States.

China's military preparation and defense modernization are primarily focused on deterring Taiwan independence and potential military conflict with the United States in the event of Washington's intervention in any dispute between Beijing and Taipei. Plans for nuclear war fighting with the United States—and the devastation that this conflict would bring—rank very low in Beijing's military planning. While Zhu's comments likely do reflect one opinion within the PLA, and is a sentiment bred by a strong mission to erase humiliation of the past, it is not necessarily the overwhelming viewpoint and definitely not official policy. At the same time, even if a significant percentage of the PLA leadership would prefer not to be bound by the current limitations on China's nuclear arsenals or policies, it is the political leaders who make the final call on national security issues, allocate resources, and ultimately decide how far China will modernize its nuclear arsenal.

There is no doubt that Taiwan remains the top most national security issue for the Chinese leadership and Beijing is willing (though not anxious) to risk a military conflict with the United States to keep the island from permanent separation. But this acknowledgement does not equate to Beijing discarding decades-old doctrines, such as NFU. Chinese political leaders, as well as many military leaders, recognize that China has nothing to gain if a conflict with the United States turned nuclear. At that point, China would quickly lose any ability to control the escalation of the conflict. If Beijing were to attack first with nuclear weapons, even in a situation where Chinese conventional forces were certain to lose the fight for Taiwan, there is no way for the leadership to predict the extent to which Washington would retaliate. The United States would see any nuclear attack by China, even on purely military targets, as provocation to escalate the conflict further, a step that could likely mean the collapse of the current leadership in Beijing. Ultimately, Taiwan would be lost either way.

The NFU policy has served China well by assuring strategic stability, assisting in a relatively more efficient allocation of limited resources, and allowing Beijing to take the high moral ground on nuclear weapons use. Despite speculation about a shift in China's nuclear doctrine, a careful analysis of official Chinese positions and recent trends in Chinese nuclear weapons modernization would suggest Major General Zhu Chenghu's remarks do not provide any new clues to China's nuclear doctrine, nor do they indicate a move towards building a more offense-capable and war-fighting nuclear posture. A look at the history of China's no-first-use policy, nuclear program, and doctrine, along with its current military planning and modernization, indicate that a move away from the NFU policy is not likely in the near-to-mid-term. Even in the long-term, China's resources and planning will likely be considered better spent on other priorities, and not the costly expansion of its nuclear arsenal.

Sources:

[1] The author would like to express her gratitude to Dr. Jing-dong Yuan for lending his knowledge and advice during the drafting of this article. She would also like to thank Dr. Daniel Pinkston for his comments and suggestions.
[2] Joseph Kahn, "Chinese General Threatens Use of A-Bombs if U.S. Intrudes," New York Times, July 15, 2005; Alexandra Harney, "Top Chinese General Warns U.S. Over Attack," Financial Times, July 15, 2005.
[3] Danny Gittings, "General Zhu Goes Ballistic," Wall Street Journal, July 18, 2005, pg. 13.
[4] Ibid.
[5] Hong Kong Ta Kung Pao in "PLA General Zhu Chenghu Claims Nuclear Remarks 'Quoted Out of Context'," from FBIS Document ID: CPP20050718000113, 17 July 2005.
[6] Sean McCormack, State Department Daily Press Briefing, July 15, 2005, www.state.gov.
[7] South China Morning Post in "SCMP: Taiwan 'Experts' Dismiss PLA General Zhu Chenghu's Remarks as 'Bravado'" from FBIS Document ID: CPP20050716000035, 16 July 2005.
[8] Max Boot, "China's Stealth War on the U.S.," Los Angeles Times, July 20, 2005; Hong Kong Sing Tao Jih Pao in "HK Paper: PLA General's Remarks on Using Nuclear Weapons Shows PLA's Bottom-Line," in FBIS Document ID: CPP20050720000083 in 20 July 2005. Also see comments by John Tkacik in the article "Taipei Times: US State Department Condemns Threats by PLA General Zhu Chenghu" from FBIS Document ID: CPP20050717000034, 17 July 2005.
[9] Hong Kong Hsin Pao (Hong Kong Economic Journal) in "PRC Scholar: Zhu Chenghu Remarks Represent View of Most Chinese," from FBIS Document ID: CPP20050716000054, 16 July 2005.
[10] Hong Kong Ming Pao in "Beijing Scholar Says PLA General's Nuke Remarks Represent PLA Stand," from FBIS Document ID: CPP20050716000050, 16 July 2005.
[11] Gittings, Wall Street Journal, July 18, 2005
[12] Xinhua News Service in "PRC FM Spokesman Says Zhu Chenghu's Remarks on Nuclear Weapons 'Personal Views'," in FBIS Document ID: CPP20050715000206, 15 July 2005. Additionally, according to an article in the Taipei Times, at least one Chinese diplomat took an "extraordinary step" to distance Beijing from Zhu's remarks by sending an "e-mail message to think- tank members and other academics in Washington asking for their advice in countering the impact of Zhu's remarks." In an effort "in damage control" the unnamed official from the Chinese embassy in Washington, D.C. was "very much concerned over these obviously very personal remarks" and was "afraid that this will provide ammunition for some in America for bashing China." Charles Snyder, "U.S. State Department Condemns Threats by PLA General Zhu Chenghu," Taipei Times, 17 July 2005, www.taipeitimes.com.
[13] Andrew Yeh, "China Acts to Ease Fears over N-arms Policy," Financial Times, July 25, 2005, http://news.ft.com.
[14] "Foreign Minister Says China's 'No First Use' Nuclear Stance Unchanged," BBC Monitoring International Reports, July 21, 2005, in Lexis-Nexis Academic Universe, www.lexis-nexis.com. Li is not quoted directly in the news reports, but instead paraphrased. In the Xinhua report, Zhu is referred to as "the researcher," instead of the more distinguished title of General. According to Dr. Jing Huang of the Brookings Institution who was present for Li's comments, Li did not himself refer to Zhu as "the researcher" but did give the impression that Zhu was not a significant figure in China's policy making system. (Author's conversation with Jing Huang, August 2005.) Li's statement and the tone of the Xinhua report indicate an attempt by one part of the Chinese leadership to downplay Zhu's role in PLA doctrine, and, thus, downplay the relevance of his remarks.
[15] Hong Kong Ta Kung Pao, 17 July 2005. In this report, Zhu's position appears once again to be downplayed.
[16] "US 'Concerned by China Missiles'," BBC News, October 20, 2005, http://news.bbc.co.uk.
[17] For an earlier assessment of China's nuclear military planning, see Alistair Iain Johnston's "China's New 'Old Thinking': The Concept of Limited Deterrence," International Security, 20:3 (Winter 1995/1996), pp. 5-42 and Johnston's "Prospects for Chinese Nuclear Force Modernization: Limited Deterrence vs Multilateral Arms Controls," China Quarterly, (June 1996) pp 548-577.
[18] See Richard K. Betts and Thomas J. Christensen "China: Getting the Questions Right," National Interest (Winter 2000), www.ciaonet.org. In this article, the authors pose the following ominous question: "If a conventional engagement leaves U.S. naval forces in control of the Taiwan Strait, can anyone be confident that Beijing would not dream of using a nuclear weapon against the Seventh Fleet?"
[19] Taking the extreme, and ultimately exaggerated, view, one commentator went so far as to claim that "China is preparing for a war with us and will not hesitate to use any means to achieve its strategic objectives," continuing that "the same murderous fanaticism that fueled the Cultural Revolution and sent tanks rolling over demonstrators in Tiananmen Square is alive and well in the Chinese Politburo and inner circles of the People's Liberation Army." Don Feder "China's Zhu-doo Diplomacy," Washington Times, July 21, 2005, pg 16.
[20] For the purpose of this paper, the term nuclear doctrine will be used to describe the official policy for the development and utilization of nuclear weapons by Chinese military and political leaders. As pointed out by Dr. Evan Medeiros, an analysis of Chinese "nuclear doctrine" is "complicated by the fact that Chinese strategists do not think about doctrine in the same way as their foreign counterparts." Medeiros adds that there is no Chinese term for "doctrine." Instead "Chinese military academics identify three levels of concepts that guide military operations: strategic-level concepts, campaign-level concepts, and tactical-level concepts. The ideas at all three levels collectively comprise what Western analysts refer to as military doctrine." See Evan S. Medeiros, "Evolving Nuclear Doctrine," in Paul J. Bolt and Albert S. Willner, ed., China's Nuclear Future, (Boulder, CO: Lynne Rienner, 2005), p 43.
[21] The use of these phrases by Chinese officials has been a recurring theme in the last half-century. For one example see "Statement at the 29th Session of the General Conference of the International Atomic Energy Agency by Zhou Ping, Head of Chinese Delegation," September 1985, www.nti.org.
[22] Johnston, China Quarterly, p.550-551.
[23] It should be noted that China's assurances not to use nuclear weapons on a non-nuclear state appear to include Taiwan as well. It is generally assumed, both in Washington and Taipei, that China would not use nuclear weapons against the island, and most assessments recognize that the 700-plus Chinese missiles pointed at Taiwan are equipped with conventional warheads.
[24] "China's National Statement on Security Assurances, April 5, 1995, China WMD Database, www.nti.org.
[25] See Johnston, International Security, as well as "China's Nuclear Doctrine," China WMD Database, www.nti.org.
[26] Author's discussions with Chinese academic, August 2005. The interviewee went on to assert that China was not planning to adjust its nuclear policy nor its NFU pledge.
[27] Bruce Blair, "Chinese Nuclear Preemption," China Security, Issue 1, August 2005, www.nautilus.org.
[28] Office of the Secretary of Defense, "The Military Power of the People's Republic of China, 2005," Annual Report to Congress, July 2005, www.defenselink.mil.
[29] Jeffrey Lewis, "The Ambiguous Arsenal," Bulletin of Atomic Scientists, May/June 2005 pp. 52-59, www.thebulletin.org.
[30] Presentation by Phillip Saunders (Institute for National Strategic Studies, National Defense University) "China's Strategic Force Modernization," 15 January 2005, www.ndu.edu. Also see Phillip Saunders and Jing-dong Yuan, "China's Strategic Force Modernization," http://cns.miis.edu.
[31] Keith Crane, et al., Modernizing China's Military: Opportunities and Constraints (RAND: Washington DC, 2005), www.rand.org.
[32] Ibid. See also Bates Gill, James Mulvenon, and Mark Stokes, "The Chinese Second Artillery Corps: Transition to Credible Deterrence," in James C. Mulvenon and Andrew N.D. Yang, ed., The People's Liberation Army as an Organization (RAND, 2001, Volume 10), pg 516, www.rand.org.
[33] "Did China Threaten to Bomb Los Angeles?" Proliferation Brief, Volume 4, Number 4, March 21, 2001, www.carnegieendowment.org. According to Freeman, the misquote came from the comment by an unnamed PLA official that "you [the United States] do not have the strategic leverage that you had in the 1950s when you threatened nuclear strikes on us. You were able to do that because we could not hit back. But if you hit us now, we can hit back. So you will not make those threats. In the end you care more about Los Angeles than you do about Taipei." Freeman points out that "statement is in a deterrent context and it is consistent with no first use." For another useful overview of the incident and how it has played in the media since the mid-1990s see, "Gertz and Xiong: A Love Torn Asunder," ArmsControlWonk.com.

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This material is produced independently for NTI by the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies at the Monterey Institute of International Studies and does not necessarily reflect the opinions of and has not been independently verified by NTI or its directors, officers, employees, or agents.

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Stephanie Lieggi provides an analysis of the limits of China's no-first use policy, after a senior Chinese official threatened use of nuclear weapons against the U.S. in the context of a military conflict over Taiwan.

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