Change in China's nuclear doctrine: End of no first use pledge

Discussion in 'China' started by Yusuf, Apr 24, 2013.

  1. Yusuf

    Yusuf GUARDIAN Administrator

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    Interpreting any country’s pronouncements about its nuclear weapons can be a study in fine distinctions, but occasionally a state says – or fails to say – something in a clear break from the past. A Chinese white paper on defense, released on Tuesday, falls into this category and now demands our attention, because it omits a promise that China will never use nuclear weapons first.

    That explicit pledge had been the cornerstone of Beijing’s stated nuclear policy for the last half-century. The white paper, however, introduces ambiguity. It endorses the use of nuclear weapons in response to a nuclear attack but does not rule out other uses.

    With North Korea making overt nuclear threats, the job of deciphering Beijing’s cryptic and mild-sounding statement may not seem a priority. Indeed, it is because the likelihood of nuclear escalation with China is low that most defense experts are likely to focus instead on what the white paper has to say about China’s rapidly expanding conventional military capabilities.

    But all of those developments may be closely connected.

    In 1964, immediately after testing its first nuclear weapon, China promised to “never at any time or under any circumstances be the first to use nuclear weapons.” This “no-first-use pledge” was explicitly and unconditionally included in each of China’s defense white papers, from the first, in 1998, through the sixth and most recent, in 2011. It was among the strongest assurances in the world of no-first-use, a stance that the United States has never taken.

    The change this year is almost certainly not the result of bureaucratic error. No-first-use has been such an intrinsic part of the Chinese nuclear liturgy that the authors of the white paper would have been extremely unlikely to have forgotten it. Besides, other evidence indicates that a broader rethinking of Chinese nuclear strategy may be under way.

    Last December, shortly after being selected as general secretary of the Chinese Communist Party, Xi Jinping, who last month became China’s president, gave a speech to the Second Artillery Force, which is responsible for China’s land-based nuclear weapons. In the past, borrowing Mao Zedong’s imagery for China’s adversaries, Chinese officials have generally played down the value of nuclear weapons, describing them as “paper tigers.” But in a significant rhetorical shift, Xi is reported to have said that nuclear weapons create strategic support for the country’s status as a major power. In the speech, Xi did not repeat China’s no-first-use promise.

    Taken together, the speech and the white paper are likely to create concern in the United States and among its allies, particularly Japan. Unquestionably, some of that concern will be stirred up by self-described “China hawks” who have been dismissing China’s no-first-use pledge as pure propaganda for the last five decades. Now, opportunistically, they may make a big issue of the apparent shift.

    But theirs will not be the only voices expressing concern; indeed, even moderates are likely to agree. Only last month, the Center for Strategic and International Studies published a report by a bipartisan group of American analysts that said China’s no-first-use pledge was “broadly stabilizing and should be sustained.”

    The white paper may also make it more difficult politically for President Obama to carry out his ambitious nuclear agenda, which includes creating the conditions that would allow the United States to declare that the sole purpose of its nuclear weapons is to deter their use by others.

    The apparent shift in Beijing’s nuclear doctrine may well be a response to other security trends in the region. Even before the North Korean leader, Kim Jong-un, issued his latest round of nuclear threats, the Pentagon announced plans to reinforce its missile defenses in northeast Asia.

    The United States has said that those defenses are meant to defend against North Korea, but they also appear to be intended to counterbalance Beijing’s growing arsenal of regional conventional missiles. Chinese defense planners worry that the United States may one day develop those defenses to the point at which they could neutralize China’s long-range nuclear forces as well, a fear exacerbated by American investments in conventional-strike capabilities.

    So China may intend the new language in its white paper to send a signal: that in a future crisis, if it concluded that the United States was about to attack its nuclear arsenal with conventional weapons that were backed up by missile defenses, China might use its nuclear weapons first. The United States should recognize this concern; it was called “use 'em or lose 'em” during the cold war.

    A candid, high-level dialogue regarding nuclear deterrence has been needed for some time. The new white paper and Mr. Xi’s speech have made the need urgent.

    While the probability of nuclear escalation is low, the consequences would be catastrophic. The risk of nuclear use is already unacceptably high and, for that reason alone, mutual confidence-building is necessary. In addition, mutual suspicion in the nuclear domain spills over into the conventional domain, complicating efforts to reduce the chance of any kind of conflict.

    Unfortunately, in spite of repeated invitations by the administrations of Presidents Obama and George W. Bush, China has not been willing to engage in a sustained conversation. The presidency of Xi Jinping may, however, present an opportunity. Given that Xi appears to have a personal interest in nuclear strategy, he may be willing to corral China’s military into engaging with the United States. His representatives should explain why China’s nuclear doctrine and posture are evolving. In the meantime, Beijing should avoid actually repudiating no-first-use to make it easier to reinstate the doctrine down the line.

    For its part, Washington could make successful engagement more likely by offering to broaden such talks to include the full range of strategic military interactions between the two countries. Because the conventional arms competition in the western Pacific may be heightening Chinese concerns about the survivability of its nuclear forces, such a dialogue might appear more attractive to China than one narrowly focused on nuclear weapons.

    No one can predict whether Xi will accept a renewed offer to talk. But it would be a win-win proposition.

    James M. Acton is a senior associate at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

    http://www.chinausfocus.com/peace-security/is-china-changing-its-position-on-nuclear-weapons/
     
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  3. Yusuf

    Yusuf GUARDIAN Administrator

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    Wonder why no one in India noticed this and comment on it. It has a bearing on India's security. Add to this the aggressiveness of China on the border. We never know what they are up to.
     
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  4. mylegend

    mylegend Regular Member

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    The end of prominent no first use policy is strategic great decision for China. China currently does not have the capability to counter USA in limited or full scale conflict. The USA navy and air force is going to overrun China early on in case of conflict. That is why China has been backing up many time in many incident when US intervene. In the case of Diaoyu island, Japan is already would be a fierce enemy with very capable navy and pretty good air force. When we put USA into the table, then the momentum shift toward Japan big time. However, the end of no first use would act as best deterrent to keep USA out of conflict. Of course, all the above conflict situation is very unlikely event. However, with end of no first use policy, it would give China the edge in many diplomatic situation because core of global diplomacy is still power(soft or hard).

    This is why China are able to develop a strong position in the dispute with Philippine. Legitimacy is only part of equation. Power is why China has the more dominate card in that dispute(it is not only military but also trade, China is the single biggest trading partner with ASEAN). That is why China was forced the cease such big chuck of land to USSR/Russia when China has such strong legitimacy over the area, I have to admit the legitmacy of that ceased land was much greater then the case in South China sea, even Lenin have promised to return the illegally occupied land to China, but Stalin and future USSR/Russian leader ignored it. It is all due to power. In a scenario of future dispute, China will have a better hand then currently if we can(a big if) keep USA out of the case.
     
  5. Patriot

    Patriot Senior Member Senior Member

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    It's time to revise our doctrine specially taking Chinese threat in the perpective and in Chi-Pak dual front conflilct also.
     
  6. Yusuf

    Yusuf GUARDIAN Administrator

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    Our doctrine was subtly changed long back. We are a NFU against NNWS.
     
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  7. arya

    arya Senior Member Senior Member

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    [​IMG]
     
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  8. thirdartillery

    thirdartillery Tihar Jail Banned

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    Dear Bhai, you don't have a thermal nuclear bomb, the biggest yield of Indian A-bomb is a lamentable 50K and you cannot put it on a launching vehicle to reach to your major enemies. abandoning the non first use makes no difference and make you look aggressive, it is suicidal to bluff too much... why do I bother myself to tell you such?
     
  9. CCTV

    CCTV Regular Member

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    Their govt. didn't bluff....., only those fanboys do.
     
  10. thirdartillery

    thirdartillery Tihar Jail Banned

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    Fanboys love bharat mata, Fanboys can at least fire saliva shells at Chinis and defeat Chinis via keyboard. I am in, I like to fight with Fanboys. hahahah.
     
  11. Patriot

    Patriot Senior Member Senior Member

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    Ok Screw yourself.
     
  12. huaxia rox

    huaxia rox Senior Member Senior Member

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    1 NFU is a policy for the past not for a modern and millitarilly and economically fast growing nation like prc.

    2 in 1960s prc didnt have effective vehicles to diliver our nuke warheads to the potential target areas so everything can be symbolic and to adopt non first use policy can be seen as a move by which mao zedong tried to let people in the third world know prcs nuke weapons were not possibly to be aimed at non nuke weapon countries which was different than the US and USSR and other westen nuke countries.

    3 back then ABM weapons were immature and then were even banned by the US and USSR. situation now is different. the US has got different ABM programs developing and chinese also have tested mid course interceptors.

    4 more importantly. chinese ICBM technology is developing rapidly and becoming very effective and mature. nuke subs are getting mature and news about stagitic bombers development has been revealed.

    and our nuke war heads have been mature long before then there is no reason to keep the then probably useful NFU policy which may still suit for countries that seemingly tested nuke devices but actually have no exprience and mature technology in weaponizing the nuke devices effectively and then successfully deliever them in mature vehicles and then penatreate ABM systems and then hit the targets .....of course unless the US wants to adopt that prc should reconsider all this thing.

    5 still someones in prc may pop out chanting prc hasnt dumped the policy i guess but i think situation is really changing. this policy is useless for prc now and should only be known in history books in high school.
     
    Last edited: Apr 25, 2013
  13. Yusuf

    Yusuf GUARDIAN Administrator

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    Ah looks like the 50 cent army has been briefed well and they are out explaining the position
     
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  14. huaxia rox

    huaxia rox Senior Member Senior Member

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    to address british common wealth people and upper castes may be needed if they dont have any useful point to make.
     
  15. huaxia rox

    huaxia rox Senior Member Senior Member

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    罗援解读国防白皮书:核武也是我们选项之一_雅虎资讯

    dont know if any foreign news out let has cared to tanslate this.

    general luo yuan says PLA still respects NFU but when stiuation is going very bad nuke weapon is one of the options.

    actually i vaguely remember the first chinese general who said nuke is the option in war is zhu chenghu who openly confronted NFU and after saying that he was slamed by some media and even probably critisized by higher ranking guys.
     
    Last edited: Apr 25, 2013

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