A Look at the China Nuclear Horn: Daniel 7

China conducted first nuclear test on October 16, 1964: A look into its stockpile of warheads

China has had a ‘minimum deterrence’ stance since 1964, committing to acquire no more nuclear capabilities than are required for retaliating against an attack.

New Delhi: Nuclear weapons are the world’s most powerful weapons. Through long-term disastrous repercussions, one can ruin a whole city, potentially killing millions of people and compromising the natural ecosystem and the lives of future generations. The hazards of such weapons stem from the fact that they exist. Despite the fact that nuclear weapons have only been deployed in battle twice—in the 1945 bombs of Hiroshima and Nagasaki—approximately 13,150 are believed to remain on our globe today, with over 2,000 nuclear tests conducted so far. 

China is the world’s second-largest military spender, trailing only India. Both countries have boosted their nuclear weapons stockpiles in the last year, but India lags behind in terms of overall nuclear warheads. China has more than double the number of nuclear weapons as India, according to the latest data from the Swedish think tank Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI). China detonated their first nuclear weapon on October 16, 1964. They have been dependent on a combination of foreign and domestic inputs to progressively grow and modernise their nuclear arsenal from the beginning of their nuclear weapons programme.

China’s Nuclear Warhead count and development

China had an estimated total inventory of 350 nuclear weapons as of January 2021. China’s operational land- and sea-based ballistic missiles, as well as nuclear-configured aircraft, are equipped with just over 270 warheads. Non-operational forces, such as new systems under development, operating systems that may grow in number in the future, and reserves, receive the remaining.

China has maintained production of the DF-26, a dual-capable, mobile intermediate-range ballistic missile (IRBM), and is replacing older road-mobile DF-31A ICBM (intercontinental ballistic missile) launchers with the more agile DF-31AG launchers. China is also in the early stages of launching the new DF-41, a road-mobile ICBM that, like the older liquid-fueled silo-based DF-5B, is thought to be capable of delivering multiple independently targetable reentry vehicles (MIRVs). China is building a new type of submarine and adding two additional ballistic missile submarines to its fleet at sea. Furthermore, China has lately reallocated a nuclear role to its bombers and is constructing a nuclear-capable air-launched ballistic missile.

This estimate is based on information about China’s nuclear arsenal that is publicly available. China has never made a public declaration on the extent of its nuclear arsenal.

What China says about its nuclear arsenal

The Chinese government has stated that it intends to keep its nuclear capabilities at the bare minimum required to protect national security. Deterring other countries from using or threatening to use nuclear weapons against China-is the purpose. China has done so for decades with a pair of mostly liquid-fueled land-based ballistic missiles and a few sea-based ballistic missiles, as well as a modest stockpile of gravity bombs available for bombers as a semi-dormant backup capability.

In order to strengthen its nuclear deterrence and second-strike capabilities in response to what it sees as a growing threat from other countries, China is now building a fully operational triad of nuclear forces with solid-fuelled land-based missiles, six nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarines (SSBNs), and bombers with a full, re-established nuclear mission.

Despite significant progress in downsizing nuclear weapons, the world’s combined nuclear warhead inventory remains at an extremely high level. As many as nine countries possessed warheads as of mid-2021. Russia and the United States hold over 91 per cent of all nuclear warheads; no other nuclear-armed state sees a need for more than a few hundred nuclear weapons for national security.

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