Fact Sheet

Nuclear Disarmament China

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Nuclear Disarmament China

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Estimated Arsenal Size

  • 350 Nuclear Warheads
  • Estimated to have 700 nuclear warheads by 2027 and 1,000 by 2030

Key Delivery Systems

Strategic

  • 280 intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs)
  • 72 submarine-launched ballistic missiles (SLBMs)
  • 20 gravity bombs

Capabilities and Developments

Military and Fissile Material Stockpile

  • Highly Enriched Uranium: 14 ± 3 tons / 15.432 tons
  • Plutonium: 2.9 ± 0.6 tons / 3.197 tons

 

Commitments and Policies

Disarmament and Commitments to Reduce Arsenal Size

  • On July 1, 1968, China signed the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) committing to nuclear nonproliferation and disarmament
  • On October 10, 2021, China released a written statement at the First Committee of the 76th Session of the UN General Assembly declaring China was committed to peaceful development and a nuclear strategy of self-defense
  • In January 2022, the Chinese director general of the Foreign Ministry’s arms control department stated that China was not expanding its nuclear arsenal but taking steps to modernize its nuclear forces

Future Commitments

  • Obligation under Article VI of the NPT to pursue nuclear disarmament
  • Has not signed or ratified the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW)

Nuclear Weapons Policies

  • China maintains a policy of No First Use (NFU), established since it first tested a nuclear weapon in 1964
  • Supports international nonproliferation efforts including the prohibition and destruction of nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons
  • On 24 September 1996, China signed the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) but has not ratified it

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Glossary

Intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM)
Intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM): A ballistic missile with a range greater than 5,500 km. See entry for ballistic missile.
Submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM)
SLBM: A ballistic missile that is carried on and launched from a submarine.
Highly enriched uranium (HEU)
Highly enriched uranium (HEU): Refers to uranium with a concentration of more than 20% of the isotope U-235. Achieved via the process of enrichment. See entry for enriched uranium.
Plutonium (Pu)
Plutonium (Pu): A transuranic element with atomic number 94, produced when uranium is irradiated in a reactor. It is used primarily in nuclear weapons and, along with uranium, in mixed-oxide (MOX) fuel. Plutonium-239, a fissile isotope, is the most suitable isotope for use in nuclear weapons.
Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT)
The NPT: Signed in 1968, the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) is the most widely adhered-to international security agreement. The “three pillars” of the NPT are nuclear disarmament, nonproliferation, and peaceful uses of nuclear energy. Article VI of the NPT commits states possessing nuclear weapons to negotiate in good faith toward halting the arms race and the complete elimination of nuclear weapons. The Treaty stipulates that non-nuclear-weapon states will not seek to acquire nuclear weapons, and will accept International Atomic Energy Agency safeguards on their nuclear activities, while nuclear weapon states commit not to transfer nuclear weapons to other states. All states have a right to the peaceful use of nuclear energy, and should assist one another in its development. The NPT provides for conferences of member states to review treaty implementation at five-year intervals. Initially of a 25-year duration, the NPT was extended indefinitely in 1995. For additional information, see the NPT.
Disarmament
Though there is no agreed-upon legal definition of what disarmament entails within the context of international agreements, a general definition is the process of reducing the quantity and/or capabilities of military weapons and/or military forces.
First Committee
First Committee: The first of six Main Committees of the United Nations General Assembly which deals with all issues related to disarmament and international security. The First Committee on Disarmament and International Security meets every year in October for four to five weeks after the General Assembly’s general debate. See entry for United Nations General Assembly. For additional information, see the NTI Inventory.
United Nations General Assembly
The UN General Assembly is the largest body of the United Nations. It includes all member states, but its resolutions are not legally binding. It is responsible for much of the work of the United Nations, including controlling finances, passing resolutions, and electing non-permanent members of the Security Council. It has two subsidiary bodies dealing particularly with security and disarmament: the UN General Assembly Committee on Disarmament and International Security (First Committee); and the UN Disarmament Commission. For additional information, see the UNGA.
Ratification
Ratification: The implementation of the formal process established by a country to legally bind its government to a treaty, such as approval by a parliament. In the United States, treaty ratification requires approval by the president after he or she has received the advice and consent of two-thirds of the Senate. Following ratification, a country submits the requisite legal instrument to the treaty’s depository governments Procedures to ratify a treaty follow its signature.

See entries for Entry into force and Signature.
First-use
The introduction of nuclear weapons, or other weapons of mass destruction, into a conflict. In agreeing to a "no-first-use" policy, a country states that it will not use nuclear weapons first, but only under retaliatory circumstances. See entry for No-First-Use
Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT)
The CTBT: Opened for signature in 1996 at the UN General Assembly, the CTBT prohibits all nuclear testing if it enters into force. The treaty establishes the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO) to ensure the implementation of its provisions and verify compliance through a global monitoring system upon entry into force. Pending the treaty’s entry into force, the Preparatory Commission of the CTBTO is charged with establishing the International Monitoring System (IMS) and promoting treaty ratifications. CTBT entry into force is contingent on ratification by 44 Annex II states. For additional information, see the CTBT.

Sources

  1. Shannon Bugos, “Pentagon Sees Faster Chinese Nuclear Expansion,” Arms Control Today, December 2021, www.armscontrol.org.
  2. “China,” Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation, March 15, 2021, www.armscontrol.org.
  3. “China,” International Panel on Fissile Materials, May 2, 2022, fissilematerials.org.
  4. Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs, China’s Non-Proliferation Policy, January 12, 2006, www.mfa.gov.cn.
  5. Andrew F. Krepinevich, “The New Nuclear Age,” Foreign Affairs, May 13, 2022, www.foreignaffairs.com.
  6. Hans M. Kristensen and Matt Korda, “Nuclear Notebook: Chinese Nuclear Forces, 2021,” Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, November 15, 2021, thebulletin.org.
  7. Written Statement by the Chinese Delegation at the Thematic Discussion on Nuclear Weapons at the First Committee of the 76th Session of the UNGA, October 22, 2021, http://un.china-mission.gov.cn.

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