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It’s important to dispel three persistent myths about China’s nuclear weapons

THE DANGEROUS MYTHS ABOUT CHINA’S NUCLEAR WEAPONS,  War on the Rocks,     DAVID LOGAN, SEPTEMBER 18, 2020

  ” ………….. As China’s growing nuclear forces have garnered new attention, so have some persistent myths about them. There are many legitimate concerns about China’s nuclear arsenal. China’s nuclear expansion and modernization is loosening longstanding technical constraints that have guided the country’s nuclear policies. The potential entanglement of Chinese conventional and nuclear forces raises the risks of misperception leading to nuclear first use in a crisis or conflict. And China’s opacity in the nuclear domain exacerbates dangerous misperceptions and misunderstandings between Washington and Beijing. Unfortunately, these real risks are frequently overshadowed by more dubious claims. Too many analysts have focused on the wrong problems when it comes to China’s nuclear forces, including claims that China is hiding a vast nuclear warhead stockpile, that its no-first-use policy is a sham, and that it has developed and fielded tactical nuclear weapons. The misguided focus on these claims can exacerbate distrust, heighten threat perceptions, and make it more difficult to address more genuine concerns. Three myths in particular deserve attention.
Three Persistent Myths About China’s Nukes

……….While the Cold War superpowers engaged in arms racing, China committed to building a “lean and effective” force. Since obtaining a nuclear weapons capability, China has publicly claimed a categorical no-first-use  policy and has asserted that “China does not engage in any nuclear arms race with any other country and keeps its nuclear capabilities at the minimum level required for national security.”

…………  The first myth is that China maintains a vast hidden arsenal of potentially thousands of nuclear warheads in the country’s underground tunnels…….


There is, however, little evidence to support these claims……..
The second myth about China’s nuclear forces is that Beijing’s no-first-use policy is a fraud.   …….
But evidence from public and classified Chinese military texts reaffirming the no-first-use policy suggests that no-first-use is still intact.  …….
The third myth is that China has developed and deployed an array of nuclear war-fighting capabilities, including tactical nuclear weapons. While there is no strict definition of tactical nuclear weapon, they are usually defined as lower-yield warheads affixed to shorter-range delivery vehicles and intended for use against military targets on the battlefield or other high-value theater targets. …….
More than three decades ago, U.S. intelligence estimates were predicting that China would soon field these kinds of capabilities. But 35 years later, those predictions have yet to come true as Defense Department and independent assessments of China’s capabilities continue to make no mention of deployed tactical nuclear weapons.

Misplaced Attention: The Real Risks of Beijing’s Nukes

Although there is little evidence to support claims that China possesses a vast covert nuclear arsenal, that its no-first-use policy is a sham, or that it has developed an extensive array of tactical nuclear weapons, there are still several reasons to be concerned about China’s nuclear forces. Unlike the above myths, which often focus on China’s force modernization and potential arms racing dynamics, these legitimate concerns often relate to actual nuclear use………..

Misplaced Attention: The Real Risks of Beijing’s Nukes………..

Addressing the Risks

These myths can exacerbate dangerous nuclear dynamics between China and the United States. The belief that China’s no-first-use policy is a sham increases the risk of Washington misidentifying a Chinese signal of resolve as preparations for a nuclear strike………

The myths can also hobble efforts to address more legitimate risks. Many of these risks, particularly those rooted in different perceptions, could be mitigated through formal dialogue. Beijing and Washington can share and refine understandings about escalation dynamics or their aims in a crisis or conflict. But misperception and miscommunication, sometimes rooted in the very myths discussed above, can make it difficult carry out such dialogues…………

Perhaps most significantly, a misguided focus on the myths could, perversely, make those myths realities. ……….

fixating on poorly sourced or unfounded claims makes any dialogue both less likely to occur and less effective if it does happen. There are enough real concerns about China’s nuclear modernization that need to be addressed without being distracted by myths. https://warontherocks.com/2020/09/the-dangerous-myths-about-chinas-nuclear-weapons/

 

September 24, 2020 - Posted by | China, politics international, weapons and war

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