06 February 2014

China’s Nuclear Weapons Program and the Chinese Research, Development, and Acquisition System

Michael S. Chase, Stephanie Lieggi, Andrew S. Erickson, and Brian Lafferty, “China’s Nuclear Weapons Program and the Chinese Research, Development, and Acquisition System,” in Kevin Pollpeter, ed., Getting to Innovation: Assessing China’s Defense Research, Development, and Acquisition System 7.12 (La Jolla, CA: University of California Institute on Global Conflict and Cooperation, January 2014), 81-85.

Historically, China’s nuclear program developed a significant level of indigenous innovation. Although the activities and processes within the nuclear weapons program may be difficult to reproduce in more typical defense acquisition programs, the case of the nuclear complex indicates that China’s RDA process is capable of overcoming major technical hurdles and deficiencies. When Beijing provides sufficient financial and human resources, affords well-trained scientists autonomy, and creates a system that facilitates cross-discipline cooperation, innovation and self-sufficiency are possible. Studying the nuclear weapons program is thus useful not only because of its importance in shaping China’s nuclear future, but also because it provides broader insights into trends in the development of China’s defense industries, some of which may be applicable to other high-priority programs.