Air University Press


A Dragon in Sheep’s Clothing: China’s Drift Towards an Inadvertent Nuclear Posture or Assured Destruction

  • Published
  • By Paul A. Hesser
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This research seeks to understand how the Chinese think about the role of nuclear deterrence and why their nuclear posture is drifting from their declaratory nuclear policy. First, it will examine the origins and evolution of the Chinese nuclear weapons program to understand their reasons for building the bomb. Establishing and characterizing China’s past nuclear posture will serve as a base to learn how its nuclear thinking developed through the decades and provide a launching point for surmising where it may go in the future. Comparing China’s grand strategy to its nuclear posture and policy will clarify why what they say seems to differ from what they do. Ultimately, the conclusions of this analysis will answer why there are disparities between Chinese nuclear policy and posture. Finally, this research will consider the implications of China’s nuclear posture. Throughout the examination, consideration is given to Chinese history, culture, diplomacy, media, military, economy, and leadership to reveal the truth behind Chinese rhetoric. The following questions helped guide the investigation of China’s nuclear condition. How has China’s nuclear deterrence posture and policy evolved since it first developed the atomic bomb? How does China currently characterize nuclear deterrence and why does China’s current nuclear deterrence policy appear misaligned with its nuclear deterrence posture? Finally, what implications does China’s nuclear deterrence condition hold for the United States? Developing a framework to answer these questions will require looking at China’s past and present to gain insight into its future behavior.


Author(s)Paul A. Hesser
AU Press CodeWF-91

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