CHINA’S NUCLEAR MODERNIZATION: ASSESSING STRATEGY AND INADVERTENT ESCALATION
Canavati, Michael C.
Twomey, Christopher P.
Larsen, Jeffrey A.
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Chinese nuclear modernization has continued since China became a nuclear weapons state in 1964. As China’s nuclear arsenal and nuclear-related infrastructure progressed, Chinese declaratory strategies of active defense and no-first-use (NFU) have remained resolute. This thesis examines how Chinese strategies may or may not be driving China’s nuclear modernization from the years 2000 through 2020. In order to determine the extent to which strategy has influenced China’s nuclear modernization, this thesis explores Chinese nuclear capabilities, training and exercises, and declaratory policy. Additionally, this thesis also addresses the prospect of Chinese nuclear escalation based on related theoretical approaches. After taking into account each factor considered for China’s nuclear modernization, this thesis concludes that China’s nuclear modernization is not solely driven by its existing strategies of NFU or active defense. Though China remains consistent in advertising its espoused strategies, its nuclear modernization raises some concerns regarding its continued adherence to NFU. Additionally, Chinese ambiguity of strategy and more forward-leaning modernization suggests that active defense incorporates both deterrence and, now, the potential use of nuclear weapons to achieve coercive outcomes. Due to China’s robust nuclear modernization that has resulted in additional warfighting options, this thesis finds that escalation across the nuclear threshold is more likely.
RightsThis publication is a work of the U.S. Government as defined in Title 17, United States Code, Section 101. Copyright protection is not available for this work in the United States.
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