Military Review

China's nuclear strategy: the minimum necessary

In October, 1964, China conducted tests of its own first nuclear warhead. Over the years that have passed since almost 50, Chinese experts have created a large number of new nuclear weapons and conducted a lot of tests. In addition, in recent decades, China has signed several international treaties relating to nuclear weapons. So, in 1992, the official Beijing ratified the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons. In 1996, China acceded to the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty. In addition, in the nineties, the Chinese leadership announced some new commitments. As a result, to date, China is obliged not to use nuclear weapons first, and also not to threaten their use by countries that do not have nuclear weapons or belong to nuclear-free zones.

In the middle of the two thousandth, the Chinese Ministry of Defense issued a document called the White Book. Among other things, it argued that China, at present and in the future, is not going to abandon the current policy of using nuclear weapons, and the Chinese military will not use them first. The White Paper also noted that the number of deployed and non-deployed nuclear weapons would remain at the minimum necessary level. In this case, however, the exact value of the "minimum required level" was not called. There are various estimates of the number of nuclear warheads in China, but the exact number of ammunition remains classified.

Apparently, China learned some lessons from the Cold War between the USSR and the USA, and the result was some statements regarding the use and numbers of nuclear weapons. Keeping secrecy, Beijing is trying to make soothing statements and in every way shows its peacefulness. However, the refusal to disclose information on the quantitative and qualitative aspects of strategic nuclear forces, as well as some predictions regarding future events, give rise to various suspicions.

The lack of official information leads to the appearance of various versions. Thus, in various analyzes of recent years, the number of nuclear warheads used in China’s strategic nuclear forces is estimated to range from 50-80 to 1500-2000 units. At the same time, figures close to the lower or upper limit of this range are most often considered incorrect, since in these cases we can talk about a significant underestimation or overestimation of estimates compared to the actual number of charges. In the middle of the two thousandth, representatives of official Beijing said that the total number of Chinese nuclear charges did not exceed that of the armed forces of Great Britain. Thus, it could be assumed that there are no more than 200 warheads in China’s nuclear arsenals.

In 2011, employees of Georgetown University (USA) made a sensational statement. The result of their research was more than a bold estimate of the volume of Chinese nuclear arsenals. It was argued that the Chinese armed forces could use up to 3 thousands of nuclear warheads. It was also said that China has a network of underground tunnels with a total length of about 3 thousand miles, which can move the tractors with ballistic missiles. Naturally, Beijing did not confirm or deny the findings of Georgetown analysts. However, soon began to appear new assessments of the Chinese nuclear shield. Various analysts "counted" at least 10 thousand nuclear warheads. As before, the Chinese leadership did not comment on such assessments.

There is a technique that allows an approximate representation of the number of nuclear warheads in China. According to different sources, from the end of the sixties to the beginning of the nineties, Chinese enterprises produced no more than 40-45 tons of highly enriched uranium and 8-10 tons of weapon-grade plutonium. Thus, for all history The Chinese nuclear program could produce no more than 1800-2000 nuclear charges. For obvious reasons, only a small fraction of this number of warheads is currently deployed. Of course, the consumption of uranium and plutonium depends on the design of a particular charge, but in the case of the simultaneous existence of three thousand ammunition, in light of the available data on the production of fissile materials, we can talk only about tactical nuclear weapons, but not about strategic ones.

Another method of estimating the amount of nuclear charges is the analysis of the goals of strategic nuclear forces. In 1965, Mao Zedong noted that only six atomic bombs would be enough to ensure strategic containment. He meant that the use of even six charges would destroy the most important cities of the enemy and thereby cause irreparable damage to him. At the end of the last decade, several studies emerged, the authors of which attempted to establish the amount of nuclear warheads necessary for China to cause unacceptable damage to nuclear powers. According to this research, the Chinese military will need 90-100 warheads to destroy important US facilities. To destroy Russian objects - 50-60. Finally, no more than 20-30 nuclear warheads are needed to damage Britain, France and India. Thus, for effective deterrence of countries possessing nuclear weapons (by the time these studies emerged, China has already declared that such weapons are not used against nuclear-free powers) only 200-210 deployed warheads are needed.

Despite the development of technology, modern nuclear warheads have limited shelf life. The leading countries of the world were able to bring this parameter to 20-25 years, but other nuclear powers have not yet achieved such success. Thus, the number of deployed nuclear warheads no more than 200-250 units and the total number of such ammunition no more than 400-500 looks most likely in light of the available information.

China’s nuclear arsenals, regardless of the exact number of warheads available, show one interesting feature of the Chinese deterrence strategy. The available number of deployed warheads is enough to destroy targets in the territory of potential enemies. At the same time, unlike the United States or Russia, China has only a few hundred charges, which accordingly affects the costs. An additional factor that can reduce waste is the rejection of the use of nuclear weapons against states that do not have such weapons. Apparently, Beijing understands the low probability of an atomic war and therefore uses nuclear weapons solely as a means of deterring some foreign countries and at the same time tries to save on its production and maintenance.

In the foreseeable future, namely, before 2021 (the completion of the second phase of the current military reform), no serious changes in the quantitative or qualitative aspects of the Chinese strategic nuclear forces are expected. China’s nuclear shield will remain as few but effective and capable of accomplishing the tasks assigned to it. In the future, it is possible to increase the number of ballistic missiles, bombers and nuclear warheads, as well as a corresponding change in the strategy for their use. However, at the moment, China does not seem to have all the necessary resources for this, and so far it will have to be content with relatively small but effective strategic nuclear forces.

On the materials of the sites:
Dear reader, to leave comments on the publication, you must to register.

I have an account? Sign in

  1. Maximus-xnumx
    Maximus-xnumx 19 November 2013 08: 25 New
    What is this getting? Intelligence agencies around the world do not have accurate data on the quantity and quality of Chinese atomic weapons ?! Why do they eat their bread ??? Or are the best counterintelligence services in the world in China? Unclear...
    1. And Us Rat
      And Us Rat 19 November 2013 13: 05 New
      Quote: Maximus-22
      What is this getting? Intelligence agencies around the world do not have accurate data on the quantity and quality of Chinese atomic weapons ?! Why do they eat their bread ??? Or are the best counterintelligence services in the world in China? Unclear...

      No, the most numerous lol Seeing a spy with a camera create a live fence between him and the secret object. lol

  2. Gorinich
    Gorinich 19 November 2013 11: 51 New
    China will make many surprises when everything is revealed, including in the field of nuclear technology.
    1. Boot under the carpet
      Boot under the carpet 19 November 2013 13: 48 New
      Totally agree!
  3. Snipe 74
    Snipe 74 19 November 2013 16: 25 New
    Confident in their abilities. The army and navy are developing very, very dynamically, it is now much more important for them to develop conventional types of weapons. And the minimum quantity of nuclear weapons is really enough to keep all those who disagree in good shape. Honestly, personally, China really scares me. For self-defense, they would have had enough of half of what is today. But their ambitions go beyond decency. Meanwhile, resources are becoming less and less, and the climate is getting worse and worse, the population is getting bigger and bigger. And all who tried to convince us that nobody and nothing threatens us went ass. The slaughter will be cruel and I'm afraid not so long. But I'd rather be wrong ....
  4. Goldmitro
    Goldmitro 19 November 2013 18: 57 New
    <<< China's nuclear shield will remain as small as it is, but effective and capable of solving the tasks assigned to it. >>>
    Undoubtedly, the Chinese leadership is betting on its gigantic human potential in the future confrontation! It was reported that in China it was decided to allow the Chinese to have two children (instead of the one allowed before), which only confirms that the Chinese just want to FILL the whole world with the Chinese! They are now where only there!
  5. Orang
    Orang 19 November 2013 19: 39 New
    China factory of the world. Today, this is the main deterrent to the United States. Against the rest, including Russia, that is enough. They will take away the Far East (if they are assembled) by non-nuclear forces, the territory should be usable.
  6. Ivanovich47
    Ivanovich47 19 November 2013 21: 05 New
    Nuclear potential is estimated by military analysts. There are techniques that allow, according to a satellite image of the plant, to determine the type of product, the capacity of the factory conveyor, etc. Therefore, the main geopolitical players (Russia, USA) quite accurately know the magnitude of China's nuclear potential. China's potential needs to know. This is a vital requirement.
    1. PavelT
      PavelT 20 October 2018 00: 46 New
      Quite exactly how it is? How accurate? How much% + \ -?

      Here are insane assessments of the storyteller Hans Christensen from the USA: - like "already" 280 warheads.
      Although in 1980, American experts from the same organization drew 434 warheads to China - it’s strange: China is getting richer, military spending is growing, and the Americans ’2010 warheads suddenly drew 200-220 pieces ... And by the way, they began to delete old articles from their site estimates in the 400 area of ​​pieces ...

      And here are the estimates of our expert from the Strategic Missile Forces: - "The Celestial Empire's nuclear arsenal probably numbers 1600–1800 nuclear warheads. Of these, 800–900 can be designed for operational deployment. units, the rest - for long-term storage and in the queue for disposal "... But this estimate is much less known. It’s a paradox: it is less well known in the world, and in Russia, although this is our expert!
      So who to believe?
  7. DZ_98_B
    DZ_98_B 19 November 2013 21: 22 New
    Comments are a definite plus !!!! China, our main enemy! How often do you see Americans in your cities and villages ???? I saw a couple of times in Moscow. once on Baikal. Well, I've seen blacks several times. 5 times probably. Maybe they are Americans, or maybe scams? I do not know. But I see the Chinese every day. And they are behaving more and more impudently.
  8. yur20100
    yur20100 19 November 2013 22: 25 New
    the Chinese fuck * m don’t click, they are building up nuclear potential while we are licking the ass of the Americans, (we’re unloading).
    and America will soon pump us at such a pace