Managing the Sino-American Dispute Over Missile Defense
AUGUST 11, 2020
WAR ON THE ROCKS
Supporters of nuclear expansion believe that a larger Chinese nuclear arsenal is the key to prevent a war with Washington and “nothing else could work.” The overt nature of the debate is unprecedented and shifts public opinion toward greater enthusiasm for a more robust nuclear posture.
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Despite the opacity and secrecy over China’s nuclear weapons, a public debate has broken out in China about the country’s nuclear arsenal. Hu Xijin, the chief editor of Global Times — reportedly China’s highest-circulation
newspaper — made repeated calls
for China to quickly and massively build up its nuclear forces. Supporters of nuclear expansion believe that a larger Chinese nuclear arsenal is the key to prevent a war with Washington and “nothing else could work
.” The overt nature of the debate is unprecedented and shifts public opinion toward greater enthusiasm for a more robust nuclear posture.
Hawkish, nationalistic opinion leaders add fuel to an already intensifying military competition between the United States and China that now risks spilling over into the nuclear domain. With an active arsenal of about 3,800
warheads, America’s nuclear stockpile is still almost 12 times larger than China’s, according to open-source research
. But Beijing’s nuclear modernization efforts have raised the stakes. While it once was the smallest nuclear power among the five nuclear-weapon states under the Non-Proliferation Treaty (i.e., China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States), it is now the third largest
— behind only the United States and Russia. Worried that its arsenal will at least double
before 2029, Washington has threatened to spend Beijing “into oblivion
” unless it joins arms control talks. Senior U.S. officials even considered
resuming nuclear testing
to force China to the negotiation table.
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This article was originally published in War on the Rocks.
Carnegie does not take institutional positions on public policy issues; the views represented herein are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of Carnegie, its staff, or its trustees.
China, Arms Control, and Strategic Stability
International Security Challenges
Nonproliferation and Arms Control
China’s Foreign Relations
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