China demonstrates nuclear power to enhance its great power

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Nuclear proliferation update

One of Joe Biden’s most urgent tasks after taking office is to save nuclear arms control. Two weeks after taking office, the President of the United States extended the “New Beginnings Treaty” with Russia, which is the cornerstone of arms control and puts the tense relationship at risk of expiration.

But the Biden administration is now forced to face another nuclear challenge: China. Since June, experts have found More than 200 missile silos The remote western desert of the country is under construction.

“For a long, long time, we have all regarded China as a future issue. Now, China is clearly a nuclear issue,” said David Santoro, chairman of the Pacific Forum, a think tank based in Hawaii, who was 15 years old. Co-organizer of the semi-official US-China nuclear dialogue in 2019.

“We have known for a long time that China is in a nuclear construction situation. What is happening now is a faster buildup.”

Last week, nuclear weapons experts Matt Kelda and Hans Christensen revealed an 800-square-kilometer missile silo construction site in Xinjiang, which they said was “the most important expansion of China’s nuclear arsenal in history.”

They believe that the number of intercontinental ballistic missile silos that China is building is 10 times the current number. According to their calculations, this expansion exceeds the number of Russian intercontinental ballistic missiles based on silos and is equivalent to at least half of the total US intercontinental ballistic missile forces.

Since the first atomic bomb test was conducted in 1964, China has always insisted on “minimal deterrence.” policy, Promised that the nuclear capability acquired will not exceed the nuclear capability required for a retaliation attack, and claimed that nuclear weapons would never be used in the first place.

Therefore, it is believed that China possesses approximately 350 nuclear warheads. Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, Is a fraction of the 5,550 warheads in the United States.

Unlike the United States and Russia, Beijing traditionally keeps most of its atomic weapons in a low-alert state and stores many warheads in a central storage separate from its launchers. This is because its policy is to strike only after enemy missiles hit Chinese territory.

But the cornerstone of China’s nuclear theory is being eroded.

Beijing views Washington’s development of a missile defense system as a threat because it may render their minimal second-strike capability useless. China is also concerned that the United States will conduct reconnaissance activities in coastal areas where it has strategic assets and US military assets in space.

Semi-official bilateral Meeting, Chinese participants made it clear that Beijing may counter these advantages of the United States by building a larger and more advanced nuclear force.

Satellite images of missile silos under construction in China
Experts found more than 200 missile silos under construction in remote deserts in China

Experts believe that Beijing is moving towards a “preemptive strike” situation. China will not prepare to absorb its opponent’s first nuclear strike before retaliating, but will immediately launch a counterattack when it realizes that an attack on them is underway.

At the same time, the Chinese People’s Liberation Army has acquired more mobile intercontinental ballistic missiles, which makes it more difficult for opponents to detect nuclear weapons. They have also installed more warheads on submarines and ballistic missiles, suitable for conventional and nuclear munitions, such as the DF-26, a missile that can hit Guam, the U.S. Pacific territory.

American analysts warn that these changes are destabilizing. “They don’t have a command and control platform to manage their maritime and aerial platforms,” ​​said Santoro of the Pacific Forum.

“On land, you can separate the warhead from the launcher, but you can’t do it on a submarine. What we worry about is that our commander can strike without having to do with Beijing.”

However, Beijing seems to be making greater strides.

Zhao Tong, a nuclear policy expert at the Carnegie-Tsinghua Global Policy Center in Beijing, said of the missile silos plan: “In recent years, technical considerations have promoted the modernization of China’s nuclear forces, but this is even greater.”

“The expansion of China’s nuclear arsenal is increasingly being driven by changes in geopolitical views,” he said.

“There is a popular idea in Chinese policy that a larger nuclear arsenal can help China counter US strategic hostility,” he added. “They argue that Russia has always been very determined to promote its own interests and Russia is respected, so they believe that a larger Chinese arsenal will also make the West respect us.”

This idea has received support from the top. Soon after Xi Jinping assumed the leadership of the Communist Party, Describes the missile force of the People’s Liberation Army As a “strategic support for the status of a major power”, China’s nuclear weapons have been given an unprecedented high-profile geopolitical role.

In March this year, Xi Jinping urged the military to “accelerate the establishment of an enhanced strategic deterrence and joint operations system”. Chinese analysts interpreted the above remarks as the clearest signal to date of the highest level of support for accelerating the development of nuclear power.

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