China's Strategic Arsenal

Worldview, Doctrine, and Systems

James M. Smith and Paul J. Bolt, Editors

"[China's Strategic Arsenal] was an extremely well-researched collection that painted a modern picture of China's strategic arsenal."
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A critical look at how China’s growing strategic arsenal could impact a rapidly changing world order

China’s strategic capabilities and doctrine have historically differed from the United States’ and Russia’s. China has continued to modernize and expand its arsenal despite its policy of no first use, while the United States and Russia have decreased deployed weapons stocks.

This volume brings together an international group of distinguished scholars to provide a fresh assessment of China's strategic military capabilities, doctrines, and political perceptions in light of rapidly advancing technologies, an expanding and modernizing nuclear arsenal, and an increased great-power competition with the United States.

Analyzing China's strategic arsenal is critical for a deeper understanding of China’s relations with both its neighbors and the world. Without a doubt, China’s arsenal is growing in size and sophistication, but key uncertainties also lie ahead. Will China’s new capabilities and confidence lead it to be more assertive and take more risks? Will China’s nuclear traditions change as the strategic balance improves? Will China’s approach to military competition be guided by a notion of strategic stability or not? Will there be a strategic arms race with the United States? China's Strategic Arsenal provides a current understanding of these issues as we strive for a stable strategic future with China.

Table of Contents


1. The US-Chinese Relationship and China as a Twenty-first Century Strategic Power, James M. Smith and Paul J. Bolt

2. China’s “Nested” Worldview, Andrew Scobell

3. China’s Nuclear Doctrine and Deterrence Concept, Christopher P. Twomey

4. Strategic Stability and the Impact of China’s Modernizing Strategic Strike Forces, Sugio Takahashi

5. China’s Strategic Systems and Programs, Hans M. Kristensen

6. China’s Regional Nuclear Capability, Non-Nuclear Strategic Systems, and Integration of Concepts and Operations, Phillip C. Saunders and David C. Logan

7. Organization of China’s Strategic Forces, Bates Gill

8. China on Arms Control, Nonproliferation, and Strategic Stability, Nancy W. Gallagher

9. China’s Strategic Future, Brad Roberts

List of Contributors



"As nuclear weapons are poised to play a more important role in US-China relations than ever before, this timely and terrific volume unpacks the evolution of China’s nuclear forces. It is essential reading for anyone interested in Asian security."—Taylor Fravel, director of MIT Security Studies Program

"China’s Strategic Arsenal provides an insightful assessment of all important facets of China’s growing, and increasingly capable, nuclear arsenal. It is a welcome addition to the literature on China and nuclear matters."—Thomas G. Mahnken, senior research professor at the Philip Merrill Center for Strategic Studies, Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS)

"As the US-China competition intensifies, nuclear weapons are certain to move up the bilateral agenda, as both a security challenge and, perhaps, as an area of cooperation. China's Strategic Arsenal is essential reading for an up-to-date and comprehensive volume that provides judicious insights about China's nuclear doctrine, strategy, and capabilities, including opportunities for arms control."—Penner Family Chair in Asia Studies, Georgetown University, and former National Security Council Senior Director for Asia

"Exceptionally well organized and presented, "China's Strategic Arsenal: Worldview, Doctrine, and Systems" is a seminal collection of nine impressively informative contributions by experts in the field, making it a critically essential and unreservedly recommended addition to community, governmental, college and university library China-Us international relations and security collections and supplemental curriculum studies lists."—Midwest Book Review

"[T]the book performs an excellent service by enriching the public debate with a deep, nuanced review of the key technical, doctrinal, geopolitical, and cultural dimensions of the evolving nuclear thinking that appears to be shaping China’s current and future policy."—Arms Control Today

"[China's Strategic Arsenal] was an extremely well-researched collection that painted a modern picture of China's strategic arsenal."—Air & Space Power Journal (ASPJ)

"This edited volume makes an important and timely contribution to the current debate on China's burgeoning strategic capabilities and the implications for strategic stability between China and the United States."—The China Journal


Paul J. Bolt, Nancy Gallagher, Bates Gill, Hans M. Kristensen, David C. Logan, Brad Roberts, Phillip C. Saunders, Andrew Scobell, James M. Smith, Sugio Takahashi, Christopher P. Twomey

Supplemental Materials


About the Author

Paul J. Bolt is a professor and the head of the Department of Political Science at the US Air Force Academy. He has published on Chinese foreign relations and defense issues, and coauthored China, Russia, and Twenty-First Century Global Geopolitics.

James M. Smith is the director of the US Air Force Institute for National Security Studies at the US Air Force Academy, where he serves as a professor of strategic studies. He has published on strategic issues, terrorism, and military leader development.

280 pp., 6 x 9
6 figures, 3 tables
ISBN: 978-1-64712-078-8
Apr 2021

280 pp., 6 x 9
6 figures, 3 tables
ISBN: 978-1-64712-079-5
Apr 2021

280 pp.
6 figures, 3 tables
ISBN: 978-1-64712-080-1
Apr 2021

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