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Office of the Historian

62. Special National Intelligence Estimate0

SNIE 13-2-61


The Problem

To estimate the position of Communist China as a world power 10 years from now, in the light of its probable political, economic, scientific, and military strengths and weaknesses.

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This estimate is based on what now appears to be the most probable course of the important factors likely to affect Communist China's industrial, scientific, and military growth over this period. Primary factors are the race between food production and population growth, and the Sino-Soviet dispute. Since these and many other factors could develop in a number of different ways, our judgments are necessarily tentative, particularly in view of the dearth of information on current conditions and the degree of the recent disruption of Peiping's long-range plans. However, a “contingency” section considers the effect of unanticipated developments in the primary factors of agriculture and Sino-Soviet relations. For both the main estimate and the contingencies it has been assumed that neither general war nor major international war in the Far East has occurred.


1. In 1971 mainland China will probably continue to be under the control of a ruthless, determined, and unified Communist leadership which remains basically hostile to the US. Communist China's position as one of the major power centers of the world will have been greatly strengthened. Communist China will probably have more than 850 million people and will continue to have the world's largest standing army and military reserve. It is likely to be among the top three nations in the production of coal, steel, and electric power. (Paras. 5, 9, 14, 18)

2. By 1971 the Chinese Communists are likely to have a modest stockpile of domestically produced nuclear weapons. They will be producing short-range and probably medium-range missiles, and it may be that they will have a submarine-launched missile capability. The possibility cannot be excluded that they can produce an operational intercontinental ballistic missile system with thermonuclear warheads by 1971.12 (Para. 15)

3. At the same time its people will continue to subsist on a barely adequate diet in good years, suffering shortages in bad years. Although impressive advances will have been made in science and technology, the quality, diversity, and technological level of production still will be considerably below that of Japan, the USSR, and the industrial nations of the West. (Paras. 6-11, 14)

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4. As Communist China's strength grows, relations with the USSR will become an increasingly difficult problem. Communist China will become even less restrained in taking political or military action independent of the USSR. It is likely, however, that their common commitment to the Communist cause, and, especially, their common enmity toward the anti-Communist world will preserve sufficient unity to enable Moscow and Peiping to act in concert against the West, especially in times of major challenge. (Para. 17)

[Here follow paragraphs 5-18, comprising the Discussion portion of the estimate; paragraphs 19-25, entitled “Contingencies”; and Appendix A. The contingencies considered were agricultural failure and a major change either for the better or for the worse in Sino-Soviet relations. Appendix A discussed the estimate's prediction of GNP growth averaging 6-8 percent per year.]

  1. Source: Department of State, INR/EAP Files: Lot 90 D 110. Secret. According to a note on the covering sheet, the Central Intelligence Agency and the intelligence agencies of the Departments of State, the Army, the Navy, the Air Force, and the Joint Staff, and the AEC participated in the preparation of this estimate. All members of the USIB concurred in this estimate on September 28 except the representative of the FBI, who abstained on the grounds that the subject was outside his jurisdiction.
  2. These estimates of Communist China's missile and nuclear capabilities in 1971 are preliminary and tentative, subject to revision after intensive analysis in the forthcoming SNIE 13-4-61, “Chinese Communist Advanced Weapons Capabilities.” [Footnote in the source text. SNIE 13-4-61 was apparently never completed.]
  3. The projections in this paragraph assume continued Soviet cooperation at somewhere near the present level. The contingencies of a marked increase or decrease in Soviet cooperation are discussed in paragraphs 24 and 25. [Footnote in the source text.]