Thu, Jul 21, 2005 - Page 8 News List

Beijing is ready to use its nuclear weapons

By Li Hua-chiu 李華球

During an official briefing for a Hong Kong delegation on July 14, Chinese Major General Zhu Chenghu (朱成虎), dean of the Defense Affairs Institute of the National Defense University said that Beijing could respond with nuclear weapons if the US militarily interfered in the Taiwan issue. I would like to interpret this by citing the viewpoints proposed in the article, Why Do States Build Nuclear Weapons?: Three Models in Search of a Bomb by Scott Sagan, director of the Center for International Security and Cooperation at Stanford University.

First, the security model: a nation develops nuclear weapons to strengthen its defenses against nuclear threat from outside.

China was repeatedly threatened by US nuclear weapons in both the Korean War and the two crises across the Taiwan Strait. Russia also targeted its nuclear arms against China when the two countries fell foul of each other in the 1960s. China has hastened its development of nuclear arms in order to resist such pressure and secure its long-term growth. Viewed from Zhu's "personal" opinion, we can see that Beijing is hinting at its strength, and the possibility of using nuclear arms when any foreign force interferes in a cross-strait war.

Second, the domestic politics model: a nation develops nuclear weapons for its national leaders to gain power and interests domestically.

After Chinese President Hu Jintao (胡錦濤) became chairman of the Central Military Commission last September, he adjusted its membership right away. Viewed from the new members, Beijing is eager to build a systematic and all-round joint operation mechanism of the three services in response to the new international strategic trend. If we examine their background, those who have been involved in military affairs against Taiwan have gradually come to the fore. We can therefore predict the focus of its military development.

China has always attached great importance to the utterances of its top government officials. Without the leadership's tacit consent, Zhu wouldn't have dared make such statements. Judging from this, Chinese leaders are in fact reaffirming their determination to restrain Taiwan independence by force through Zhu's words, so as to comfort the hawks and consolidate their power, as well as that of the regime.

Third: the norms model: a nation develops nuclear weapons to identify with the world's advanced countries.

After the Cold War era, although countries have different motives regarding their development of nuclear weapons, the political gains and international influence of their moves are mostly similar. Thus, developing nuclear arms can strengthen not only their "soft power," including their international strategic roles and influence, but also their "hard power," such as military strength.

Motivated by this, Beijing has put a great amount of money and manpower into the development of nuclear arms, so it can play a crucial role after its economic take-off with the world's four other leading nuclear states -- the US, Russia, Britain and France.

To sum up, I believe that Zhu's remarks revealed that China is already capable of stopping foreign interference in its internal affairs by nuclear force, and is also able to resolve Taiwan independence by the same method. Although his statement caused an uproar, I believe that China is ready now. Otherwise, Beijing would not make such comments at a time when Sino-US relations are so delicate.

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