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In 1964 China became the world’s fifth nuclear-weapon state; the last to be recognized under the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT). China has recently increased its warhead count while modernizing its strategic missile forces and nuclear submarine fleet, making its stockpile the world’s third largest (although much smaller than that of the U.S. or Russia).

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Region   East Asia and the Pacific

~320 Nuclear warheads

~90 Nuclear capable intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs)

~250 New long-range missile silos revealed in 2021

2020 Enacted export control law which controls for dual-use items


Nuclear

  • Maintains nuclear “no first use” policy, pledging not to use nuclear weapons against non-nuclear weapon states
  • Full nuclear triad, including nuclear bombers, ICBMs, and JIN-class (Type 094) nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarines
  • Conducted 45 nuclear tests, including thermonuclear weapons and a neutron bomb, before signing the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty (CTBT)

China Nuclear Overview


Biological

  • Was subjected to large-scale biological weapon attacks by Japan during World War II
  • Past allegations of transferring biological weapons-related items to countries such as Iran have led to U.S. sanctions
  • Has established export control regulations based on control list of dual-use items which could contribute to biological weapon programs

China Biological Overview


Missile

  • Replacing liquid-fuel missiles with longer range, road-mobile, solid-fuel missiles
  • Possesses approximately 75-100 intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs)
  • U.S. has sanctioned Chinese companies for missile technology transfers to countries such as Iran, Iraq, Libya, North Korea, and Syria

China Missile Overview


Chemical

  • Hosted more than 300 inspections from the OPCW as part of Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) commitments
  • Working with Japan to dispose of approximately 700,000 chemical weapons left on Chinese territory by the Japanese during World War II
  • Not a member of the Australia Group, but maintains AG-consistent chemical control list

China Chemical Overview

Featured Treaties and Regimes Memberships

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NPT

The NPT is a treaty aimed at limiting the spread of nuclear weapons through the three pillars of non-proliferation, disarmament, and peaceful use of nuclear energy.

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Biological Weapons Convention (BTWC)

The BTWC mandates the elimination of existing biological weapons and prohibits developing, stockpiling, or using biological and toxin weapons.

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Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC)

The Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) requires countries to destroy all chemical weapons and prohibits developing, stockpiling, or using chemical weapons.

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Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty (CTBT)

The Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty bans all nuclear explosion tests on Earth. It needs eight key countries to ratify before entry into force.

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Analysis

China

China Submarine Capabilities

Fact Sheet

China Submarine Capabilities

A highlight of global trends in the sale and acquisition of diesel- and nuclear-powered submarines by country with capabilities, imports and exports. (CNS)

Sources

Hans M. Kristensen & Matt Korda “Chinese nuclear forces, 2020,” Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, 76:6, 443-457. https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/pdf/10.1080/00963402.2020.1846432?needAccess=true

Anupam Srivastava, “China’s Export Controls: Can Beijing’s Actions Match Its Words?” Arms Control Today, November 2005, armscontrol.org.

S. Department of Defense, “Annual Report to Congress: Military and Security Developments Involving the People’s Republic of China 2019,” 2 May 2019, www.defense.gov

Arms Control Association, “Worldwide Ballistic Missile Inventories,” armscontrol.org

Shirley A. Kan, “China and Proliferation of Weapons of Mass Destruction and Missiles: Policy Issues,” Congressional Research Service, 3 January 2014. https://sgp.fas.org/crs/nuke/RL31555.pdf

Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the People’s Republic of China, “The Chemical Weapons Convention,” fmprc.gov.cn

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