Global Insights: Nuclear Displays Show That China Has Learned to Love the Bomb

Global Insights: Nuclear Displays Show That China Has Learned to Love the Bomb

The Chinese government has been unabashedly showing off its nuclear weapons this past month. The most noteworthy display was unprecedented TV coverage in late-October of China’s nuclear submarines conducting combat drills, accompanied by a photo spread profiling the subs’ activities. Chinese media justified the display as reinforcing deterrence against foreign threats and meeting Western demands for military transparency.

One can debate whether this selective transparency, which builds on previous exposures of China’s new stealth planes and other new military capabilities, is meant as a warning to Washington and Tokyo not to challenge Beijing’s territorial claims, a message primarily for internal audiences or for some other purpose. In any case, the United States should continue to push for sustained and more comprehensive strategic dialogue with China that encompasses doctrinal issues as well as technical capabilities.

China has thus far focused its resources on developing shorter-range nuclear forces capable of attacking targets in Japan, Taiwan, India and eastern Russia. But new intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) programs, including the DF-31A and eventually the DF-41, are projected to contribute significantly to the range, reliability and overall effectiveness of China’s nuclear arms. The U.S. Defense Department estimates that China has between 50 and 75 ICBMs capable of reaching the continental United States, a figure that might double in the next decade. Furthermore, China successfully tested a DF-41 road-mobile missile in 2012 that may have the capacity to carry and release multiple warheads against different targets. It could also carry heavier decoys to complicate anti-missile defenses.

Keep reading for free!

Get instant access to the rest of this article by submitting your email address below. You'll also get access to three articles of your choice each month and our free newsletter:

Or, Subscribe now to get full access.

Already a subscriber? Log in here .

What you’ll get with an All-Access subscription to World Politics Review:

A WPR subscription is like no other resource — it’s like having a personal curator and expert analyst of global affairs news. Subscribe now, and you’ll get:

  • Immediate and instant access to the full searchable library of tens of thousands of articles.
  • Daily articles with original analysis, written by leading topic experts, delivered to you every weekday.
  • Regular in-depth articles with deep dives into important issues and countries.
  • The Daily Review email, with our take on the day’s most important news, the latest WPR analysis, what’s on our radar, and more.
  • The Weekly Review email, with quick summaries of the week’s most important coverage, and what’s to come.
  • Completely ad-free reading.

And all of this is available to you when you subscribe today.