Why is China Expanding its Nuclear Arsenal? Know the details

China is expanding its nuclear arsenal at a rapid pace, and experts are concerned about the implications. The country is believed to have more than 400 nuclear warheads and it is predicted to increase continuously. Read below to learn more. 

Nikhil Batra
Jun 12, 2023, 16:48 IST
China's increased nuclear warheads
China's increased nuclear warheads

China is expanding its nuclear arsenal at a very quick pace. According to Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) China’s stocked warheads increased from 350 to 410. Here are all the essential details. 

The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute released the data on nuclear warheads from the 9 states- Russia, the United States, the United Kingdom, France, China, India, Pakistan, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (North Korea) and Israel that declined from 12,710 to 12, 512 in 2023. 

— SIPRI (@SIPRIorg) June 12, 2023

Dan Smith, director of the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), told AFP that "We are approaching, or maybe have already reached, the end of a long period of the number of nuclear weapons worldwide declining,".

However, according to the report, China’s nuclear arsenals increased in January 2023.

Hans M. Kristensen, Associate Senior Fellow with SIPRI’s Weapons of Mass Destruction Programme and Director of the Nuclear Information Project at the Federation of American Scientists (FAS) said “China has started a significant expansion of its nuclear arsenal”

“It is increasingly difficult to square this trend with China’s declared aim of having only the minimum nuclear forces needed to maintain its national security”, he added.

According to SIPRI, Russia and the USA carry over 90% of all nuclear weapons and the size of their warheads that are usable has been stable this year as well. Here is the table showcasing the nuclear forces of the World:

Source: SIPRI

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Will China increase nuclear warheads?

It is difficult to say for sure whether China will continue to increase its nuclear arsenal. However, the factors that are driving China's nuclear expansion are likely to continue in the future, so it is likely that China will continue to expand its nuclear arsenal at least for the foreseeable future.

According to Arms Control Association, "If China continues the pace of its nuclear expansion, it will likely field a stockpile of about 1,500 warheads by its 2035 timeline."

The expansion of China's nuclear arsenal is a major concern for the United States and its allies. It is a sign of China's growing military power and its willingness to use force to achieve its goals. 

The United States and its allies need to be prepared to respond to this challenge, and they need to work to ensure that China does not use its nuclear arsenal to threaten its neighbors or the international community.

Nuclear Diplomacy Suffers 

Due to Russia’s attack on Ukraine, the efforts by many nations to control and reduce the usage of nuclear weapons faced a major setback. 

As a result, the United States stopped mentioning the stability and control of its nuclear weapons to Russia. 

In conclusion, China's decision to expand its nuclear arsenal can be credited to a variety of factors. First, it aims to ensure its national security by maintaining credible barriers against potential adversaries. 

Second, China seeks to enhance its global influence and leverage in international affairs, as a robust nuclear arsenal is often seen as a symbol of power and prestige. 

Additionally, China may be responding to perceived threats or developments in the geopolitical landscape, such as the modernization efforts of other nuclear-armed states. 

Dan Smith, SIPRI Director stated “In this period of high geopolitical tension and mistrust, with communication channels between nuclear-armed rivals closed or barely functioning, the risks of miscalculation, misunderstanding or accident are unacceptably high”.

“There is an urgent need to restore nuclear diplomacy and strengthen international controls on nuclear arms”, he added

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