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Change and innovation in Chinese nuclear weapons strategy

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)185-204
JournalChina Information
Issue number2
PublishedJul 2012

King's Authors


This article explores change and conceptual innovation in Chinese nuclear weapons strategy. It argues that drastic change towards a war-fighting strategy is not considered likely. Some transition is underway, towards what some have termed assured retaliation, but this transition is not a dramatic departure from past strategy which was based on uncertain retaliation. To illustrate this view, the article focuses on three areas: declaratory nuclear policy, military modernization, and academic discussions among military and civilian strategists in China. Declaratory policy offers a useful lens through which to consider Chinese nuclear strategy, especially nuclear deterrence and the policy of no first use. For its part, China’s ongoing military modernization has been a source of much concern in the West, but here a distinction is made between nuclear and non-nuclear modernization, and emphasis is placed on how both underpin no first use. Lastly, in Chinese academic circles, discussions have expanded upon declaratory policy and introduced innovative ideas on how best to shape future strategy. These discussions represent important efforts to demystify misconceptions regarding Chinese strategy, moving beyond traditional frameworks of analysis such as minimum deterrence, towards concepts such as counter-coercion.

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