The editors of the Washington Post summarize the recent findings of rapid expansion of China’s nuclear weapons capability:

One month ago, a disturbing report based on satellite imagery showed that China was building about 120 silos for intercontinental ballistic missiles near Yumen in Gansu province, some 1,300 miles west of Beijing. At the time, we raised questions about China’s intentions. Now, a new report has identified a second field taking shape, with about 110 silos near Hami in eastern Xinjiang, 240 miles northwest of the first site. Considering other locations where missile silos are under construction, China seems to be aiming for a tenfold increase in intercontinental ballistic missiles if each silo were filled. What is going on?

and remark:

An unanswered question is what China thinks it will gain by vaulting to a nuclear posture closer to that of the United States and Russia. The response by the United States and the West is either more nuclear weapons — a new arms race — or nuclear arms control, in which China has not shown much interest. The new missile silos are an ominous sign of a growing challenge, made even more vexing by the other tensions between Washington and Beijing.

In my view while we should be modernizing our nuclear deterrence and missile capabilities, we should refrain from taking more strenuous actions in response to this Chinese build-up but that wasn’t the question that occurred to me on learning of it. I wondered what would Japan do?

I would not be a bit surprised if we saw Japan working on a nuclear deterrent of its own. Not to mention Taiwan. India, which already has a nuclear arsenal, may start increasing it. Cold War II, indeed.

4 comments… add one
  • bob sykes Link

    The Chinese are afraid of a first strike by the US, and they want the ability to respond. Considering our aggressive and militaristic history since the fall of the USSR, they have reason for concern.

    The recently stated policy of the Chinese leadership is that they intend to raise the remaining 600 million Chinese peasants out of poverty and into the greater Chinese economy and that they intend to reduce dependence on exports by building domestic consumption. They need a generation of peace to do that. They will not risk losing that dream and what they already have by going to war.

    The only way we will find ourselves at war with either Russia or China or any other country (insert name here) is if we ourselves attack them first. The US is the main aggressor now, followed by mini-me Israel.

  • CuriousOnlooker Link

    Let’s wait for more conclusive data. From the “missile gap” of the 1960 is a lesson that we can easily misinterpret circumstantial data in this area.

    Similar to sentiments expressed; China shares borders with 4 nuclear armed neighbors, and 2 additional near neighbors that could develop nuclear weapons quickly if they chose. Those are heavy disincentives to doing much about offensive capabilities; so I look at the data through those eyes.

  • My take is that the Chinese authorities continue to chafe under several centuries of what they deem to be disrespect. Being a great power is insufficient; to be publicly seen and deemed a great power is important, too. Building up their nuclear arsenal is part of that project.

    Additionally, irredentism is part of that project, cf. Tibet, Hong Kong. I suspect that the Chinese authorities are preparing to take Taiwan by force or at least want to be perceived domestically and in Taiwan as preparing for that. IMO the possibility that may backfire is real.

    I disagree with bob that the Chinese are worried about an American nuclear (or other) first strike. I suspect the Chinese authorities’ view is more like that of Osama Bin Laden prior to 9/11—that the U. S. is a “paper tiger”.

    I also think that one continent is too small for three superpowers. Was it Will Rogers who said that diplomacy is the art of saying “nice doggie” while looking around for a rock?

  • Grey Shambler Link

    Nice of them to put all those missiles together in a “field”.
    Doesn’t smell right. More info is needed.

Leave a Comment