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Cold War Statesmen Confront the BombNuclear Diplomacy Since 1945$
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John Gaddis, Philip Gordon, Ernest May, and Jonathan Rosenberg

Print publication date: 1999

Print ISBN-13: 9780198294689

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: November 2004

DOI: 10.1093/0198294689.001.0001

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

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

Chapter:
(p.194) 9 Between ‘Paper’ and ‘Real Tigers’: Mao's View of Nuclear Weapons
Source:
Cold War Statesmen Confront the Bomb
Author(s):

Guang Zhang Shu

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/0198294689.003.0009

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

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