Challenges in Nuclear Posture and Deterrence from China’s Perspective

Author: Wang Dehua1

Published in National Security Journal, 24 December 2021

DOI: 10.36878/nsj20211224.06  

Download full PDF version – Challenges in Nuclear Posture and Deterrence from China’s Perspective (603 KB)

Abstract

South Asia is one of the most vulnerable regions in the world today. Since India and Pakistan embarked on their path of open nuclear weapons development with their nuclear tests in 1998, nuclear deterrence between the two countries has become an important pillar within the South Asian security architecture. As strategic stability in the region is increasingly fragile, a number of these factors also impact China’s security, through economic and political fallout, as well as nuclear impacts on deterrence, arms races and crisis stability. The ongoing Kashmir dispute, challenges to the Treaty on the Non-proliferation of Nuclear Weapons and Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty, as well as shifting nuclear postures and Indo-Pacific strategies all merit greater attention. This essay will address these trends, in addition to how China’s South Asia policy may best prioritise the enhancement of nuclear stability in the region.

Keywords: South Asia, Nuclear, Deterrence, Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty

Introduction

South Asia is one of the most vulnerable regions in the world today, marked by increasingly fragile strategic stability.1 Ever since India and Pakistan conducted their nuclear tests in 1998, nuclear deterrence between the two countries has become an integral part of the South Asian security architecture. Conflicts between India and Pakistan near the Kashmir border are frequent and marked by two commonalities, namely the outcome is often the same and India tends to undertake the initiative first.

This construct leads to questions as to whether India could attack Pakistan without cause and whether or not recent conflicts could escalate into a nuclear war. Within these dynamics, the primary role of China is to guard against nuclear arm’s racing between India and Pakistan, while strengthening the Treaty on the Non-proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) and the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT). This essay will discuss some of the key challenges faced by India and Pakistan, and how China may play a constructive role.

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1 Wang Dehua is Director and Professor of the Institute of South and Central Asia Studies in the Shanghai Municipal Centre for International Studies and an Advisor to China Association for South-Asia Studies. He also serves as a Senior Fellow in the Center for National Strategic Studies of Shanghai Jiaotong University and as Director of the Centre for South-Asia Studies in School of Political Science and International Relations of Tongji University. He is former Vice President of the Shanghai Institute for International Strategic Studies.