CMSI China Maritime Reports


David C. Logan



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China’s development of a credible sea-based deterrent has important implications for the PLAN, for China’s nuclear strategy, and for U.S.-China strategic stability. For the PLAN, the need to protect the SSBN force may divert resources away from other missions; it may also provide justification for further expansion of the PLAN fleet size. For China’s nuclear strategy and operations, the SSBN force may increase operational and bureaucratic pressures for adopting a more forward-leaning nuclear strategy. For U.S.-China strategic stability, the SSBN force will have complex effects, decreasing risks that Chinese decisionmakers confront use-or-lose escalation pressures, making China less susceptible to U.S. nuclear threats and intimidation and therefore perceiving lower costs to conventional aggression, and potentially introducing escalation risks from conventional-nuclear entanglement to the maritime domain.

Publication Date

December 2023


China Maritime Studies Institute, U.S Naval War College


Newport, Rhode Island


China, PRC, China Maritime Studies Institute, CMSI, People’s Liberation Army, PLAA, nuclear, ssbn, deterrent

China Maritime Report No. 33: China's Sea-Based Nuclear Deterrent: Organizational, Operational, and Strategic Implications