Why Is China Building Up Its Nuclear Arsenal?

Nov. 15, 2021

By Tong Zhao

Mr. Zhao is a Beijing-based expert on nuclear policy.

BEIJING — Forget about nuclear might. It’s time for the United States to talk to China about mutual vulnerability.

It’s clear that Beijing is rapidly expanding its nuclear arsenal. Commercial satellite images suggest China is building more than 100 new intercontinental ballistic missile silos. Reporting emerged last month that it tested a nuclear-capable hypersonic missile that circumnavigated the globe — the first nation to do so. America’s top military officer later confirmed that “significant event,” and now the Pentagon is warning that China could quadruple its arsenal by 2030.

Taken together, concerns over a “strategic breakout” by China are understandable. Without a willingness by the United States and China to enter a clear dialogue, the results could be catastrophic.

Some American experts have argued that China is testing nuclear weapons delivery systems because it’s looking for ways to circumvent U.S. missile defenses, which Beijing’s nuclear experts fear could negate their country’s ability to absorb a U.S. nuclear attack and then retaliate.