Chinese Nuclear Strategic Policies, 1958-1972: The Impact of External Threats, International Politics, and Technology

Author/Editor: W.W. Whiston


Publisher/Sponsor: N/A
Supplier: RAND
Report Date: 07/01/1973
Document Number: R-1232-PR
Classification: Declassified
Nautilus Filing Number: N/A
Box Number: 6


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From its inception until the 1960s, the Chinese communist central government was divided into two parties, one led by Mao Tse-tung and one by Lu Shao-ch’i. Despite their philosophical and political differences, both Chinese leaders agreed to embark on a self-sufficient nuclear weapons program. Since its launch in 1958, the Chinese nuclear program has built one of the largest arsenals of nuclear weapons in the world and is an hugely important player in the international politics of nuclear arms.

In his 1973 report, Whiston examines how the Mao-Liu divide impacted the military structure and organization and the newborn nuclear weapons program in the 1960s.

Whiston writes:

“In brief, Mao Tse-tung’s priority goal was (and remains) the saving of souls, while Liu Shao-ch’i’s was the clothing of bodies. Given this difference between the priest and the banker, linkages between goals and means inevitably brought conflict over threat perceptions, defense policies, nuclear strategy options, and actual weapon procurement.” [page v]


This report was released to the Nautilus Institute under the US Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).