China is far behind the US and Russia in terms of nuclear warheads. While China’s warheads lie in the low hundreds, US and Russia stand at more than 6000 each (1750 and 1600 deployed by USA and Russia respectively).
Hu Xijin, editor in chief of Chinese state-run media house – Global Times (GT) writes that China needs to expand the number of its nuclear warheads to 1,000 in a relatively short time and needs to have at least 100 Dongfeng-41 strategic missiles (DF-41 is the fourth and the latest generation of the Dongfeng series of strategic missiles developed by the PRC).
He further said that even though China is a peace-loving nation, there is a need for a larger nuclear arsenal to curb US strategic ambitions and aggression toward China.
In a 2019 defence white paper, China said that “it is always committed to a nuclear policy of no ‘first use of nuclear weapons’ at any time and under any circumstances. It vows not to use or threaten to use nuclear weapons against non-nuclear-weapon states or nuclear-weapon-free zones.”
Unless there is a threat looming over its head, the question remains that why does China need a larger arsenal of nuclear warheads than it already has? “
We are facing an increasingly irrational US, which only believes in strength. We don’t have much time debating the need for increased nuclear warheads, we just need to accelerate the steps that make it happen,” wrote Xijin.
Trump has been notoriously critical of China long before the pandemic. However, Trump earlier proposed that China joined the four permanent members of the United Nations Security Council at a summit to begin a new round of arms control talks.
According to administration officials, the objective is a trilateral agreement among China, Russia, and the United States to limit nuclear weapons. “The United States will use this opportunity to bring both Russia and China into the international arms control framework and head off a costly arms race,” the official said. Beijing rejected this proposal contending that its smaller nuclear force is defensive and doesn’t pose any threat.
Last year, on its 70th anniversary of Communist rule, China paraded its latest missile technology including DF-41, particularly a hypersonic ballistic nuclear missile, believed competent of breaching all existing anti-missile shields deployed by the U.S. and its allies.
China has dramatically magnified its nuclear resources to enrich uranium and reuse plutonium. This enhancement is way more than what is required for civilian reactors and for export considering its present customers.
Such elements also enable nuclear defence for the country. It plans to build enough uranium to make 1500 warheads each year which will make it stand equal to the US.
Beijing’s aggressive responses come as a result of the global backlash, especially from the US. “Some people may call me a ‘warmonger’ because I want the country to have more nuclear warheads. They should instead give this label to US politicians who are openly hostile to China,” wrote Xijin.
Considering China’s defence capabilities and its proposed strategies, Beijing is yet to offer a clear answer on whether it is preparing for a far-reaching retaliation or it is merely a strategic self-defence move.