The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), a Swedish think tank, recently released reports, showing a total of 13,400 nuclear warheads worldwide as of January 2020, distributed among the USA, Russia, UK, France, China, India, Pakistan, Israel and North Korea. China currently has a stockpile of 320 warheads in its arsenal, compared to 5,800 in the United States and 6,370 in Russia. However, “in 2019 China and India were, respectively, the second- and third-largest military spenders in the world. China’s military expenditures reached $261 billion in 2019, a 5.1 per cent increase compared with 2018, while India’s grew by 6.8 per cent to $71.1 billion.”
SIPRI pointed out that “China is in the middle of a significant modernization of its nuclear arsenal. It is developing a so-called nuclear triad for the first time, made up of new land- and sea-based missiles and nuclear-capable aircraft.” According to sources from the People’s Liberation Army (PLA), China added at least 30 nuclear warheads in 2019, some of which are already ready for deployment. As it is difficult to tell China’s intentions, its unrestricted arsenal has become a threat to many countries. The latest advances in artificial intelligence (AI) have also contributed to nuclear risks.
The specifics of the nuclear tactics of the PLA, including its weapons manufacturing and the capability of its buildup and deployment, have always been the focus of foreign observers, who believe that the Chinese military has hidden nuclear warheads in many inland provinces, especially Xinjiang. China is believed to have conducted test explosions in the enclosed areas of Xinjiang, Sichuan, Qinghai, and Inner Mongolia.
“SIPRI’s estimates suggest that China is the second-largest arms producer in the world, behind the United States and ahead of Russia. All four of the profiled companies would have been ranked among the 20 largest arms-producing and military services companies globally in 2017, with three—AVIC, NORINCO, and CETC—in the top 10.”
SIPRI’s database shows that China was the fifth largest exporter in 2015–19, following the United States, Russia, France, and Germany. The large buyers of Chinese weapons include Pakistan, Bangladesh, Myanmar, and Algeria. According to SIPRI, “Most of these countries are considered friendly or are allies of China.”
So far, China has not signed the 2013 United Nations’ Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) or any relevant international agreement. The United States insists that China should join the nuclear arms reduction talks, but China has repeatedly refused. The U.S. has insisted that China join future nuclear arms reduction talks—something that China has categorically ruled out.
1. Radio Free Asia, June 26, 2020.
2. Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, June 15, 2020