Country Report: China

China is one of the five nuclear weapon states of the NPT and the only one to have an open policy of no first use. BASIC monitors China’s nuclear policies and political shifts in its Getting to Zero updates. Read the summaries below for a reverse chronological history.

February 2012

The publicity surrounding a study conducted by a group of Georgetown University undergraduate students under the guidance of Professor Phillip A. Karber and covered by the Washington Post has stirred controversy over assessments of the size of China’s nuclear arsenal. The project focused on China’s tunnel system, so expansive that it could hold up to 3,000 nuclear weapons. Current estimates place the arsenal under 300 warheads. Nuclear analysts have roundly criticized the methodology and conclusions. The study has already prompted a congressional hearing.

May 2011

Chinese leaders visited Washington, DC in early and mid-May as part of stepped-up efforts to improve dialogue and trust between the two governments.Policy officials from both countries took part in the U.S. Strategic and Economic Dialogue series of meetings. These were followed by military to military discussions at their highest level in seven years. The talks took place against the backdrop of a number of tension points, including economic disagreements, the U.S. continuing its arms sales to Taiwan, China extending its support for Pakistan’s nuclear energy program, and the United States wanting China to increase pressure on North Korea to give up its nuclear weapons program. Days later, China was trying to rebuff allegations stemming from a U.N. investigation that it has served as a transshipment area for illicit trading of ballistic missile technology between Iran and North Korea.

China has released its “white paper” on defense: China’s National Defense in 2010. The document offers little information on the nuclear forces specifically, and where it does, it reaffirms previously stated positions: “China consistently upholds the policy of no-first-use of nuclear weapons, adheres to a self-defensive nuclear strategy, and will never enter into a nuclear arms race with any other country.”  The Paper also includes a review of its positions on “Arms Control and Disarmament,” which includes calling on other nuclear weapons states to “negotiate and conclude a treaty on no-first-use of nuclear weapons against each other.”

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