Senior Policy Director John Erath was quoted in ANI about the reasons behind the Chinese nuclear buildup.
“The risk is real, and mounting. We use the phrase ‘Great power competition’ about China and the West,” said John Erath, senior policy director for the Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation.
This is descriptive but not definitional, as there is also great power cooperation in terms of trade, finance, business, etc. So too much emphasis on competition does a disservice. When we consider nuclear weapons, we must consider them as components of a larger security situation. No country ever builds a nuclear force without an important security reason to do so.
With the growth in the notion of ‘Great power competition’, there is a belief that security is waning, and nuclear danger is growing. What has brought this change? wondered Erath. He believed it was the perception of China’s Western Pacific neighbors, which want a greater US presence in the region to counter China’s growing aggression and militarism. Touching on the US-India relationship, Erath said it was as good as it has ever been, largely driven by Chinese nationalism. In short, China is responsible for a move in the wrong direction, and this also applies to the building of nuclear weapons.
Historically and traditionally, the drivers of China’s nuclear policy have rested on three key pillars: maintaining minimum deterrence; economic success, with China wishing to be seen more as an economic than military power; and a ‘no first use’ policy. But these three pillars are all crumbling now, with China’s economy under stress, the minimum deterrence policy cast aside, and regional powers no longer believing in China’s NFU.
In calculating what policy prescriptions Western countries’ powers should follow, we have to deal with the difference between perception and reality, said Erath, and understand that China is playing a different game. We must not reduce the ‘Great power competition’ to purely military terms, and an arms race is not in any nation’s interest, as each has other priorities.
Erath argued that the more important level of competition between China and the West is an intellectual one – a competition of ideas and visions of how the world should be ordered.
“This can be seen most clearly in the sphere of information, which is really where we should be competing, and where Western governments should be investing. This will create an opening where we can have arms control,” Erath said. Read more