A simplified nuclear exchange model will be developed to evaluate China’s past and current nuclear retaliatory capability against the Soviet Union and the United States. The modeling suggests that according to Western standards, China’s nuclear retaliation has been and remains far from “assured.” This result reflects China’s special nuclear philosophy, which emphasizes the role of nuclear taboo and prioritizes political control over survivability. However, in the face of U.S. advances in the areas of counterforce and missile defense, China probably has to continue to improve its nuclear forces qualitatively and, if necessary, quantitatively, in order to maintain its deterrent level.



Wu Riqiang is a joint Research Fellow with the International Security Program and the Project on Managing the Atom. He is an Associate Professor at the School of International Studies at Renmin University of China. He received his Ph.D. in political science from Tsinghua University in 2012.  Before that, he worked for six years at the China Aerospace Science and Industry Corporation as a missile engineer. He holds a M.Sc. and B.E., both from Harbin Institute of Technology. His research combines the technical and political aspects of arms control issues, such as missile defense, China-U.S. strategic stability, and crisis escalation.