Accession Number:

ADA617237

Title:

Red China's Capitalist Bomb: Inside the Chinese Neutron Bomb Program

Descriptive Note:

Journal

Corporate Author:

NATIONAL DEFENSE UNIV FORT MCNAIR DC INST FOR NATIONAL STRATEGIC STUDIES

Personal Author(s):

Report Date:

2015-01-01

Pagination or Media Count:

63.0

Abstract:

This paper examines why China developed an enhanced radiation weapon ERW but did not deploy it. ERWs, better known as neutron bombs, are specialized nuclear weapons with reduced blast effects and enhanced radiation, making them ideal tactical and antipersonnel weapons. Declassified U.S. intelligence and Chinese press reports indicate the People s Republic of China PRC was interested in an ERW in 1977 and successfully tested a device on September 29, 1988. To date, however, these sources provide no evidence of deployment. This study exploits primary source documents to reconstruct the ERW program s history, assesses drivers behind decisions throughout the program, and considers broader implications for PRC decisionmaking on weapons development. This case study suggests a model of a technology reserve in which China develops a weapons technology to match the capabilities of another state but defers deployment. This paper presents an analytic framework for examining how the technology reserve model might apply to China s decisionmaking on ballistic missile defense BMD, antisatellite ASAT, and hypersonic glide vehicle HGV systems. The framework considers five variables as potential drivers of China s ERW decisionmaking. Specifically, it assesses the strategic environment of the PRC, the strategic value and normative value of the ERW, as well as the resource demands and technical feasibility of the ERW program. The framework also considers coalition politics of the ERW program as an intervening variable that influenced each of the above variables throughout the program s history.

Subject Categories:

  • Nuclear Weapons

Distribution Statement:

APPROVED FOR PUBLIC RELEASE