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"[Arms Control Today] has become indispensable! I think it is the combination of the critical period we are in and the quality of the product. I found myself reading the May issue from cover to cover."

– Frank von Hippel
Co-Director of Program on Science and Global Security, Princeton University
June 1, 2018
China’s Nuclear Expansion: The Challenges, Implications, and Risk Reduction Options

Wednesday, November 17, 2021
2:00 - 3:30pm Eastern time
via Zoom webinar

As the Biden administration continues to conduct a review of U.S. nuclear weapons policy scheduled to be completed in early 2022, China appears to be in pursuit of a significant and concerning expansion in the diversity and size of its nuclear forces.

Speakers

  • Gerald Brown, defense analyst at Valiant Integrated Services
  • Rose Gottemoeller, former undersecretary of state for arms control and international security and deputy secretary general of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization
  • Lynn Rusten, vice president of the Global Nuclear Policy Program at the Nuclear Threat Initiative
  • Daryl Kimball (moderator), executive director of the Arms Control Association

Our speakers addressed the factors that appear to be driving China to augment its nuclear capabilities and what those advancements mean for strategic and regional stability, the importance of dialogue and engagement with Beijing on nuclear risk reduction and options for doing so, and the implications of China’s nuclear advances for U.S. nuclear force posture and modernization.

The Defense Department now projects that China is expected to exceed the department’s earlier estimate that Beijing is poised to at least double the size of its nuclear stockpile over the next decade. Recent analysis of satellite imagery by respected nongovernmental organizations has revealed the construction of at least 250 new missile silos at as many as three locations across China. Beijing also conducted over the summer two tests associated with the development of hypersonic weapons, one of which potentially involved a long-range nuclear-capable hypersonic glide vehicle that flew through low-orbit space and circled the globe.

The Pentagon’s latest annual report on China Military Power slated to be released this month highlights several of these and other Chinese nuclear advances.

The Biden administration has expressed grave concerns about China’s nuclear advances and argued that “Beijing has sharply deviated from its decades-old nuclear strategy based on minimum deterrence.” The administration seeks to commence a dialogue on nuclear risk reduction with Beijing, but thus far, China has rebuffed the prospect.

Whether China implements the projected nuclear buildup over the next several years remains to be seen and is likely to be determined by several variables. These variables include the trajectory of the overall U.S.-China strategic relationship, U.S. and allied military deployments in the Indo-Pacific, and advances in U.S. long-range conventional strike and missile defense capabilities.