Li Nan

Visiting Senior Research Fellow, East Asian Institute, National University of Singapore

Li Nan is Visiting Senior Research Fellow at the East Asian Institute, National University of Singapore. He has published extensively on Chinese security and military policy and China’s maritime development. His most recent book is Civil-Military Relations in Post-Deng China: From Symbiosis to Quasi-Institutionalization (2020). He was previously a professor at the US Naval War College and had earlier received a PhD in political science from the Johns Hopkins University.

This screen grab obtained from a handout video released by the Russian Defence Ministry on August 29, 2022, shows Chinese soldiers marching along a railway platform upon their arrival for 'Vostok-2022' military exercises at the Sergeevsky training ground at Primorskiy (Maritime) Kray of the Russian Far East. (Handout/Russian Defence Ministry/AFP)

Will China's military exercises with SCO countries and Russia help it build a regional security order?

East Asian Institute academic Li Nan asserts that China’s joint military exercises with Central Asian countries and Russia are done in the context of furthering “strategic partnerships” to deal with domestic and intramural security threats but not external threats. While it is clear that China aims to build a regional security order in Central Asia, its adherence to non-interference may hinder its efforts.
Soldiers of Chinese People's Liberation Army (PLA) fire a mortar during a live-fire military exercise in Anhui province, China, 22 May 2021. (CNS photo via Reuters)

Will China abandon its 'no first use' nuclear policy?

Li Nan notes the seeming contradiction of China expanding its nuclear force while vowing not to fight a nuclear war. He explains that China seeks to ensure that it has nuclear counterattack capabilities that can survive the first nuclear attack and launch retaliatory strikes. At the moment, its “no first use” policy is intact, but the debate around it suggests that China’s nuclear strategists have begun to explore the possibility of limited nuclear war that can be winnable against enemy targets.
Military personnel stand in formation next to a portrait of Chinese President Xi Jinping (back) outside the Forbidden City in Beijing on 22 October 2020. (Nicolas Asfouri/AFP)

What has changed in China’s South China Sea policy under Xi Jinping?

Li Nan sees that China has been using more aggressive “defensive” strategies in the South China Sea (SCS) under Xi Jinping, which includes the building of several artificial islands and the consolidation of administrative control of Chinese possessions and claims in the SCS. While policy insiders in China often see these actions as defensive, those who have a stake in the SCS have cause to disagree.