China's emergence as a nuclear power poses new and important issues for U.S. strategic and arms-control policy. How one assesses the "China problem," and the alternative means to cope with it, has a direct bearing on what the American position should be on key questions in the U.S.-Soviet Strategic Arms Limitation Talks (SALT) during the months and years ahead. It will certainly influence-directly or indirectly-major decisions of the United States and the Soviet Union on whether to build or forgo new weapons systems.
In analyzing the "China problem," one point must be kept in mind. Despite Peking's ambition to be a great power, its support for revolutionary struggles in the underdeveloped world, and its obvious efforts to increase China's international influence, the Chinese military-strategic position in relation to the superpowers is fundamentally weak, and the Chinese know it. As a consequence, China's basic military posture in big-power relations is of necessity defensive.
There is no doubt that ever since 1949 the Chinese communist régime has felt very vulnerable to external pressures and possible attack by one or both of the major nuclear powers. Particularly since the late 1950s- following the Sino-Soviet split and the start of U.S.-Soviet collaboration in the arms-control field-Peking has felt itself to be, in a sense, "encircled" by the two superpowers.
One of China's basic aims, therefore, has been and still is to acquire at least a minimal nuclear deterrent to improve its ability to deal with the United States and the Soviet Union. Its hope is to achieve a position less unequal than in the past, and to strengthen its bargaining position and leverage in relations with the big powers. Above all, its aim is to deter attack against China and reduce China's vulnerability to external pressures.
Without attempting here to summarize in detail the progress of China's nuclear program, one can say that while its technological progress has been impressive in many respects, its actual capabilities are very limited and
Loading, please wait...