Vice Admiral David Kriete, deputy commander of the U.S. Strategic Command, has warned that China is aggressively increasing their nuclear assets in a bid to flex their muscles and establish dominance in Asia and rest of the world.
“China is and has been for the last couple of decades on a very clear trajectory where they’re increasing the numbers of nuclear weapons that they field, they’re increasing the number of and diversity of the delivery systems… They are working on fielding a triad — ballistic missile submarines, strategic bombers, and land-based intercontinental ballistic missiles,” Kriete said in a statement (The Washington Free Beacon).
Beijing is also increasing its nuclear weapons manufacturing abilities, which will allow the country to keep growing stockpiles. Kriete is not sure about how committed the Chinese are with their “no first use” policy regarding nuclear weapons. He also expressed concerns about the militarization of the South China Sea. Just last year, Beijing reclaimed around 3,200 acres of islands in the region, with military equipment being deployed on some of the islands.
Though the exact number of nuclear warheads that China possesses is not known, estimates put it at around 200 to 1,500. Jonathan Ward, a regional expert at consulting firm Atlas Organization, believes that China is focused on becoming the dominant force in the world by 2049, the century mark for the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP’s) rise to power.
He warns that the U.S. cannot block China from becoming a world superpower by solely focusing on the military. Instead, America has to ensure that it remains economically competitive enough to ward off Beijing’s “Made In China 2025” strategy that seeks to make the Asian nation the leader in sectors like robotics, artificial intelligence, aerospace, and so on. These are areas in which the U.S. currently leads. By continuing its supremacy in these high-tech sectors, the United States will be in a position to thwart China’s plan to completely take over the world.
General Timothy Ray, commander of Air Force Global Strike Command, wants U.S. political leaders to focus on maintaining an edge over China in a way that is sustainable. Getting carried away by the conflict and trying to claim superiority in every single field might backfire and put America in a disadvantageous position. “You can try to set a pace in a race that you can’t keep, or you can pick the races in which you can set the pace at a rate where you can have a dominant hand,” he said in a statement (Breaking Defense).
After taking a break for the last 3 years, China has resumed its plans to build more nuclear reactors. Beijing has announced that it will invest around US$12 billion to construct four new reactors. Earlier, the government was talking with nuclear technology supplier Westinghouse to acquire their AP1000 nuclear power plant. However, the government now seems to be more interested in local companies and technologies. China will be building its untested Hualong One Nuclear Reactor at the first project site in Zhangzhou later this year.
“The problem with AP1000 — the delays, the design changes, the supply chain issues, and then the trade problems — has forced their hand, and it has become Hualong… For the Hualong, there are four reactors already under construction and one of them is near completion already. It is a Chinese design so it wouldn’t be very hard to license the next four,” Li Ning, a nuclear scientist and dean of the College of Energy at Xiamen University, said to Reuters.
After China announced the US$12 billion investment, shares of nuclear power companies surged in the Hong Kong market. China had 46 nuclear reactors as of January 2019 with a total energy production capacity of over 45 gigawatts. Eleven reactors are under construction. Beijing has set a target of 58 gigawatts of nuclear generation capacity by next year.