Understanding China’s Foreign and Defense Policies

Published Mar 25, 2024

US concerns about the People’s Republic of China (PRC) exert a significant influence on US government decisions about US foreign and defense policy, including how many nuclear weapons the United States military should have, what types of weapons they should be, where they should be deployed and under what circumstances they might be used.

These concerns are based on US government assumptions about the intentions of PRC leaders, especially Xi Jinping, who is the Chinese president, the general secretary of China’s ruling communist party, and the chair of China’s Central Military Commission, which makes decisions about Chinese nuclear weapons policy.

Why interpreting China’s intentions can be challenging

Language and cultural barriers, as well as China’s intentionally opaque political system, make it exceptionally difficult for US decisionmakers to reliably assess Chinese government intentions.

What we are doing to promote healthy US-China Relations

UCS recently came into possession of a series of speeches Xi Jinping gave to Chinese military officers during the first seven years of his tenure as China’s leader, from 2012 through 2019. These speeches were not intended for external distribution, which increases their potential value as a window into Xi’s thinking about Chinese foreign and defense policy, including Chinese nuclear weapons policy. His remarks contain ideas, express concerns, and reflect attitudes Chinese military officers are discussing among themselves, as well as principles they are being asked to study and apply in their work.

UCS believes these speeches, and related Chinese primary sources we may find from time to time, may be able to better inform contemporary debate about US-China relations, and US government decisions about foreign and defense policies influenced by that debate. As we work through these sources, we will select those we find valuable, and post the original Chinese text as well as the English language translations. We will also provide occasional commentary and analysis on some of the sources we translate.

Related resources