World View: China’s Missile Tests May Signal End of Nuclear No-First-Use Policy

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This morning’s key headlines from

  • China debates banning Christmas celebrations
  • China’s missile tests may signal end of nuclear no-first-use policy

China debates banning Christmas celebrations

Owners of Harley-Davidson motorcycles wearing Santa Claus costumes ride along a street to give presents to elders at a nursing home during a promotional event celebrating Christmas in Guangzhou, Guangdong province on Dec. 24, 2014 (Reuters)
Owners of Harley-Davidson motorcycles wearing Santa Claus costumes ride along a street to give presents to elders at a nursing home during a promotional event celebrating Christmas in Guangzhou, Guangdong province on Dec. 24, 2014 (Reuters)

Citizens, schools, and even whole towns in China are attempting to curb Christmas celebrations amid a backlash against what is seen as the increasing influence of Western culture.

At one university where Christmas celebrations were banned, students on Christmas Eve had to attend screenings of what were described as propaganda films about Confucius instead of participating in the celebrations. Banners were draped outside the university with slogans that read: “Strive to be outstanding sons and daughters of China, oppose kitsch Western holidays,” and “Resist the expansion of Western culture.”

Schools in Wenzhou, East China’s Zhejiang Province, have been forbidden from holding any Christmas-related events this year. The ban on Christmas events covered all high schools, middle schools, primary schools and kindergartens. Wenzhou has been for years a hub of Christian missionary activities. The city is home for roughly a million Christians, according to previous reports.

The ban on Christmas events came on the heels of a series of conflicts between Zhejiang Christians and authorities this year, as the local government tried to demolish churches and crosses that violated construction standards. A church in Yongjia county, Wenzhou was nearly torn down earlier this year. The authorities said the building was not built lawfully and was in violation of construction regulations. The church was eventually saved after a series of negotiations in April.

However, an editorial by Xinhua, China’s state-run news mouthpiece, says that there’s no need to abolish Christmas:

The debates over Christmas, however, reveal certain anxieties behind China’s cultural ambitions. Some critics associate Christmas with a public obsession for anything Western, while others lament the “shipwreck” of Chinese culture.

For Chinese Christmas fans, the logic is simple: Like Valentine’s Day, Christmas is just a merry time to shop, party and exchange gifts. Non-Christian Chinese associate Christmas more with the “Old Man of Christmas”, Santa Claus, than any Christian theology.

One reason for the growing popularity of Western festivals here, particularly among the young, is that they offer an excuse to be with friends and lovers, while traditional festivals are more family-centered, celebrated with family get-togethers and feasts.

There is no need to pit Western festivals against Chinese: Chinese Christmas revelers will still number among the hundreds of millions who travel home for the Lunar New Year family reunion.

One reason that the Chinese Communist Party does not want to end Christmas celebrations is because Christmas is big business for China, especially through the Alibaba e-commerce web site. For example, China manufactures 60 percent of the world’s Christmas decorations. Global Times (Beijing) and International Business Times and Xinhua (Beijing)

China’s missile tests may signal end of nuclear no-first-use policy

For decades, China’s military has claimed a defensive “no first strike” policy for nuclear weapons, meaning that they would not use nuclear weapons until after surviving a nuclear strike by an enemy, particularly the United States. However, developments associated with the recent tests of the nuclear-capable WU-14 hypersonic missile suggest that China is now focusing on offensive preemptive nuclear strikes, rather than purely defensive responses.

The WU-14 is a major advance in China’s military capability. A conventional intercontinental ballistic missile is shot in an arc higher than the atmosphere and allowed to fall to the target. American missile defenses are thought to be capable of detecting and intercepting attacks of this kind.

The hypersonic missiles under test work differently. They’re still carried up by ballistic missiles, but they’re released while still in the atmosphere, and they’re allowed to glide almost horizontally to their targets at almost 8,000 miles per hour. Because they travel so fast, they’re thought to be able to defeat America’s current missile defenses. The systems provide enhanced precision, speed, range, maneuverability and multiple-targeting.

In actual practice, the Chinese would launch simultaneous missile attacks, combining traditional ballistic missile attacks with very high speed hypersonic missiles coming in at low altitudes. “It makes the defense problem orders of magnitude worse for the defender,” according to one analyst.

The hypersonic missile is capable of delivering either conventional or nuclear weapons. It’s thought that China has between 500-1000 nuclear weapons, stored in a vast network of tunnels. The tunnel network is often called China’s “underground great wall.” There are some 3,000 miles of tunnels, hundreds of meters underground, deep in mountain areas, difficult to detect from space spy satellites. Details of the tunnels have not been publicized for obvious security reasons, but it is known that they are scattered across China and are not all connected to one another. They are designed to withstand nuclear and conventional attacks. Rail lines and trucks move missiles, related equipment, and personnel within the network. All the activities necessary for launch preparation can be done in the tunnels.

Although China has not announced any change to its no-first-use nuclear policy, there are some signs. China’s official defense documents now make no mention of no-first-use. China’s president Xi Jinping made no mention of no-first-use during a visit to China’s Second Artillery Corps to congratulate them on the development of the WU-14. The Second Artillery Corps has developed the WU-14 with both conventional and nuclear capabilities, and the same people worked on both sides. In open discussions of the systems, nuclear no-first-use is rarely if ever mentioned. Instead, the discussions have been on the pre-emptive nature of these systems.

This is not proof that China has abandoned its no-first-use policy. But China has been rapidly building its military for years with a variety of weapons and missile systems that have no other purpose than to preemptively strike American aircraft carriers, American military bases, and American cities, and Generational Dynamics predicts that China is preparing for pre-emptive war with the United States. It stands to reason that the developers of these massive military capabilities would not hesitate to use a nuclear weapon in a pre-emptive strike if they believed that it gave them a significant military advantage. Washington Free Beacon and Lowy Institute (Australia) and Bulletin of Atomic Scientists (Jan, 2012)

KEYS: Generational Dynamics, China, Christmas, Confucious, Wenzhou, WU-14, underground great wall, Xi Jinping, Second Artillery Corps
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