Between ‘Paper’ and ‘Real Tigers’: Mao's View of Nuclear Weapons

Guang Zhang Shu

in Cold War Statesmen Confront the Bomb

Published in print April 1999 | ISBN: 9780198294689
Published online November 2004 | e-ISBN: 9780191601538 | DOI:
 Between ‘Paper’ and ‘Real Tigers’: Mao's View of Nuclear Weapons

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Mao Zedong originally saw a new China's struggle for security in terms of conventional warfare and in 1946 satirized the atomic bomb as a ’paper tiger’. Mao found it difficult to understand why the imperialists would venture to use nuclear weapons in a war if they wanted to dominate other nations, because a massively destructive weapon would not serve the purpose of acquiring political control, but would instead destroy that which was to be controlled. However, he gradually changed his position, as he understood the deterrent value of the bomb. Frequent US nuclear threats against China, Soviet pressures, and pressures from other Chinese leaders who kept pushing Mao to pay more attention to nuclear‐weapon programmes are the important factors that contributed to his ’nuclear revolution’. Consequently, his thinking on the atomic bomb came to dominate China's defence policy and brought about the policy changes that turned China into a major nuclear power.

Keywords: China; defence policy; deterrence; imperialism; nuclear weapons; policy changes; security; Soviet Union; USA; Mao Zedong

Chapter.  11256 words. 

Subjects: International Relations

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