China's Nuclear Forces: Operations, Training, Doctrine, Command, Control and Campaign Planning

  • May 01, 2007
  • Dr Larry M Wortzel

Recent books and journal articles published in China provide new insights into nuclear doctrine, operations, training, and the employment of the People’s Liberation Army’s (PLA) strategic rocket forces. The major insights come from exploiting sections of a doctrinal text published for PLA institutions of higher military education by the Chinese National Defense University, A Guide to the Study of Campaign Theory (Zhanyi Lilun Xuexi Zhinan). In the view of many in the PLA, the military power of the United States, the potential to use that power to coerce or dominate China, and the ability to threaten China’s pursuit of its own its interests, presents a latent threat to China. Additionally, China’s own threats against democratic Taiwan, and the fact that PLA leaders believe that the United States is likely to come to Taiwan’s assistance in the event of Chinese aggression in the Taiwan Strait, magnifies the threat that PLA officers perceive from the United States. This perceived threat drives the PLA to follow U.S. military developments more carefully than those of other nations and to be prepared to counter American forces. The PLA is mixing nuclear and conventional missile forces in its military doctrine. Also, some in China are questioning whether the doctrine of “no-first-use” of nuclear weapons serves China’s deterrent needs.