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China on track to double nuclear arsenal and more, says new Pentagon report

Military vehicles carry DF-5B intercontinental ballistic missiles during a parade commemorating the 70th anniversary of Japan's surrender during World War II held in front of Tiananmen Gate in Beijing, Sept. 3, 2015. (Voice of America/Released)
September 01, 2020

The Department of Defense on Tuesday released its annual report summarizing China’s continued military expansion. Among its findings: China is on track to at least double its nuclear arsenal within the next decade.

The Pentagon’s 200-page report states China’s stockpile of nuclear warheads “is projected to at least double in size” over the next decade as the nation continues to modernize its nuclear forces. The Pentagon report estimates China currently has around 200 nuclear warheads.

While China is projected to at least double its nuclear force within 10 years, it would still not surpass that of the U.S. arsenal, which according to Defense News, consists of around 3,800 warheads in a readily available state and more in reserve.

While the U.S. maintains a larger nuclear arsenal, the report did note China’s Navy remains the largest in the world, with 350 active ships to the U.S. Navy’s 293 ships currently listed in service in early 2020. China currently has two nuclear-powered aircraft carriers, with plans to build two more conventionally powered carriers.

The report also found China has continued to grow its arsenal of ballistic and ground-launched cruise missiles to 1,250 and has expanded its air defense systems with Russian S-400 and S-300 missile defense systems and other domestically-produced systems.

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“More striking than the PLA’s [People’s Liberation Army’s] staggering amounts of new military hardware are the recent sweeping efforts taken by CCP [Chinese Communist Party] leaders that include completely restructuring the PLA into a force better suited for joint operations, improving the PLA’s overall combat readiness, encouraging the PLA to embrace new operational concepts, and expanding the PRC’s overseas military footprint,” the DOD report states.

While the DOD report notes China has continued to increase its military over the past 20 years, “major gaps and shortcomings remain.”

The report states, “The PRC’s leaders are aware of these problems, and their strategy envisions the PLA undergoing almost 30 more years of modernization and reform.”

Despite this, the report states the PLA is increasing its strategic focus and said, “The CCP does not intend for the PLA to be merely a showpiece of China’s modernity or to keep it focused solely on regional threats. As this report shows, the CCP desires the PLA to become a practical instrument of its statecraft with an active role in advancing the PRC’s foreign policy, particularly with respect to the PRC’s increasingly global interests and its aims to revise aspects of the international order.”

The report says that China plans to modernize its military theory by 2035 and to fully transform China’s military units into “world-class” forces by 2049.