CHINA'S STRATEGIC NUCLEAR WEAPONS
Major General Yang Huan
Major General Yang Huan was Deputy Commander, Second Artillery (Strategic Rocket Forces), PLA. His paper is excerpted from Defense Industry of China, 1949-1989 (Beijing: National Defense Industry Press, 1989).
China's Second Artillery Corps, a strategic missile troop of the People's Liberation Army, mainly has the task of strategic nuclear counterattack. The research as well as the development of strategic nuclear weaponry are the foundation for constructing and developing the Second Artillery Corps.
China's strategic nuclear weapons were developed because of the belief that hegemonic power will continue to use nuclear threats and nuclear blackmail. From the day of establishment, the People's Republic of China faced a major economic and technology blockade from hostile powers. Further, it also faced serious nuclear threats from hegemonism. To oppose nuclear war, smash nuclear blackmail, safeguard national security and sovereignty, and keep peace throughout the world, China needed a powerful national defense and its own strategic nuclear weapons. At that time, the Central Committee of the Party, Mao Zedong and Zhou Enlai made a wise decision to make China's strategic nuclear weapons independently. This decisive and timely step paved the way for developing our strategic nuclear weapons.
As early as 1956, Mao Zedong pointed out, "We also need the atom bomb. If our nation does not want to be intimidated, we have to have this thing." In June 1958, he stated, "To make atom bombs, hydrogen bombs, and intercontinental missiles, from my point of view, is perfectly possible in ten years." Later on, he further instructed us that development of strategic nuclear weapons should "have some achievement, and be fewer but better." What Mao Zedong said gave us a clear guidance on our effort to research and manufacture our strategic nuclear weapons. It is not hard to imagine how difficult it was during those days in China to develop advanced weapons with a weak economy and a backward scientific and technological community. But under the leadership of the Central Committee of the Party and its specialized committee, all Chinese people gave strenuous support to the cadres, the experts, the technicians, and the PLA officers and men who shouldered the responsibility of developing our advanced weapons. These people exerted themselves to carry out a determined struggle for the final victory. They lived plainly, they worked hard, they devoted themselves selflessly to the projects, they relied on their own efforts in research and manufacturing, and after an extremely hard struggle they surmounted the difficulties at last.
On October 16, 1964, our first atom bomb exploded successfully; on October 27, 1966, we succeeded on our nuclear missile trial test; on June 17, 1967, our first hydrogen bomb was exploded. These tests allowed made us step into a new period, that of mastering the development of nuclear missile weapons. China's achievements within such a short period of time evoked a strong response all over the world. The Chinese Government has declared again and again, "China is compelled to conduct nuclear tests and develop nuclear weapons in order to break the nuclear monopoly; China's nuclear weapons will be used definitely for self-defense; the Chinese Government has always advocated an all-round prohibition and a complete destruction of nuclear weapons in the world." This is the fundamental stand China maintains on possessing nuclear weapons.
In 1958 we built up the special Artillery Corps, then on July 1, 1966, the Second Artillery Corps was officially established with approval of the Central Military Committee. In the last 20 years, the Corps has gradually been developed and strengthened and equipped with different kinds of nuclear missile weapons it made by itself. The Second Artillery Corps trained in the use of weapons, coordinated training, battle simulation and tactical exercises, and successfully launched different types of missiles and improved both its ability to master strategic weaponry and fighting capability. At the same time, it strengthened its research work on the formation of weapons systems, weapons use in battle, and development of such systems, and improved weapon quality. It has also done a great amount of work on command systems, battlefield construction, weapons testing, and maintenance and repair. The Second Artillery Corps has become a well-trained strategic missile corps with a certain level ofnuclear counterattack capability.
For over 30 years, we developed our strategic nuclear weapons from short-range to medium-range to long-range and intercontinental missiles, and provided our army with a number and variety of missiles and nuclear weapons. Our armed forces are now capable of striking back with nuclear weapons, which greatly strengthens our national defense and our international status. Additionally, it helps to weaken the nuclear monopoly of the superpowers, contain nuclear war, and safeguard world peace.
Since the 1980s, the international situation has relaxed somewhat, but the role of military force in national security policy has not decreased. The number of strategic weapons owned by the big nuclear powers has already surpassed the saturation level, and weapon technology has reached a very high level, constituting a serious threat to world peace and security. At the same time, the problem of nuclear proliferation and especially the concern of nuclear weapons falling into the wrong hands have become more and more serious, and there is no end to the regional arms race. We should have a clear mind and maintain vigilance when facing such a situation, and should also follow the development of the high technology in the world, maintaining our strategic nuclear weapons in accordancewith the actual conditions of our country.
The research and development of our first generation of strategic nuclear weapons were a great success, but we must understand that there is still a great distance between the world's advanced level of technology and our own. Our historical experience has shown that for the sake of our national security interests, and for world peace and stability, we must develop strategic nuclear weapons and keep pace with the advanced world level. Ours is a developing country that is engaged in economic construction. Our Party Central Committee and the Central Military Committee have, according to scientific analysis of the international situation and in consideration of the actual conditions of our country, made decisions to change the strategic thinking that guides our military development. Under the current situation, the development of our strategic nuclear weapons should focus on long-term goals. We should develop advanced weapons that suit our national defense strategy, and at the same time we should improve current weapons to raise the quality and the comprehensive fighting capability. Science and technology should be our guideposts, and we should aim for advanced levels of 21st century technology, strengthening the study of single-item high technology weapons. We should work hard on the survival, fast reaction, accuracy, and break-through and high-command technologies for weapons systems. These should be the direction for the development of our strategic nuclear weapons. We should conduct research in the following aspects:
Improve the survivability of the strategic nuclear weapons. Survivability is an important factor in waging a nuclear counter strike. We should strengthen research on small, solid fuel and highly automated mobile missiles and on the technology of invisibility, for reinforcing defense work against nuclear or nonnuclear strike; and improve the survivability of missiles before launch and in flight.
Improve the striking ability of strategic nuclear weapons. Accuracy and power are chief factors used to judge weapon striking power. To increase the credibility of limited nuclear deterrence, we should work to improve accuracy, and our new generation of strategic weaponry should be of higher precision.
Improve the penetration technology of strategic weapons. Strategic weapons can be used in actual fighting only when they can penetrate enemy defenses and reach and strike the target a necessary condition to protect itself and destroy a target. In an era when space technology is developing rapidly and a defense system with many methods and many layers is appearing, we should pay special attention to the study of break-through technology.
To sum up, we conclude that the development of strategic nuclear weapons is one main aspect in strengthening national defense and is an important symbol of modernization for our military. In future development, the advanced qualities of strategic weapons will rely to a large degree on the development of the high technology and reflect the comprehensive power of a country. To safeguard more effectively our national security and territorial integrity and sovereignty, plus the socialist modernization construction, we must have a modernized army and improve and develop our strategic nuclear weapons. We should, in accordance with the actual conditions of our country, develop a limited number of high quality strategic nuclear weapons that could be used effectively to strike back against an enemy using nuclear weapons to attack us. We should strive to build a small in number but effective strategic missile corps with Chinese characteristics, and make further contributions to the safeguarding of our country, world peace, and the progress of mankind.