China and the Neutron Bomb

The neutron bomb is a controversial weapon. Indeed, the public disclosure by the United States of its development in 1977 has provoked sharp and widespread debate that is likely to continue in the future. Although the United States has manufactured and stockpiled neutron bombs, in order to mollify public opposition in Europe it announced in 1981 that these weapons would not be deployed overseas at that time. France has developed and tested a neutron bomb successfully, but it has not yet decided whether to produce and deploy it. The Soviet Union claims that, although it has tested a neutron bomb, it has never started production of that weapon.

What about China? There is little information about the neutron bomb in open literature, yet Chinese Defense Minister Zhang Aiping said recently at a memorial service for China's leading nuclear scientist, Deng Jiaxian, that Deng made important contributions to the theory of atomic and hydrogen bombs and their successful testing as well as major breakthroughs in the principles of new nuclear weapons and their research and testing. What kind of new nuclear weapons? Do they include the neutron bomb? Minister Zhang Aiping did not mention this weapon. Maybe China is not developing the neutron bomb now, but at least we can say that China, as a nuclear country, has the ability to develop it and is interested in it. Does China need neutron bombs? This report reviews U.S. and French plans for deployment of the neutron bomb and, further, evaluates the practicality of neutron bombs for China from the perspective of China's politics, strategy, geography, and technical and economic capabilities.