In 1964 China became the world’s fifth nuclear-weapon state, formally 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).
See China's performance in
Region East Asia and the Pacific
~410 Nuclear warheads
~140 Intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs)
~350 New ballistic missile silos revealed in 2021-2022
2020 Enacted export control law which controls for dual-use items
- Maintains nuclear “no first use” policy and pledges not to use nuclear weapons against non-nuclear weapon states
- Deploys 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) in 1996
Going Beyond the Stir: The Strategic Realities of China’s No-First-Use Policy
- 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
- Replacing liquid-fuel missiles with longer range, road-mobile, solid-fuel missiles
- Possesses approximately 110 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’s Growing Missile Arsenal and the Risk of a “Taiwan Missile Crisis“
Examining China’s Debate on Military Space Programs: Was the ASAT Test Really a Surprise?
- 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
Statement of Former Senator Sam Nunn on the Nomination of Deborah Rosenblum to be Assistant Secretary of Defense for Nuclear, Chemical, and Biological Defense Programs, United States Senate Armed Services Committee
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)
Hans M. Kristensen, Matt Korda, and Eliana Reynolds, “Chinese Nuclear Weapons, 2023,” Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, 79:2, 108-133, https://doi.org.
Hans Kristensen, Eliana Johns, and Matt Korda, “STRATCOM Says China Has More ICBM Launchers Than the United States – We Have Questions,” Federation of American Scientists, 10 February 2023, https://fas.org.
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.
“Worldwide Ballistic Missile Inventories,” Arms Control Association, 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.
Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the People’s Republic of China, “The Chemical Weapons Convention,” https://fmprc.gov.cn.