AmericasAsia PacificCommentaryNuclear

China Aims for Nuclear Parity: Should the US Be Worried?

Nuclear weapons allow China to challenge America for its role as the world’s preeminent superpower.

Despite domestic issues, the Chinese Communist Party is determined to become a global power, rivaling American influence in the Pacific and throughout the world.

To do this, Beijing must rely on a strong military to deter outright conflict by presenting military might.

China is rapidly expanding its nuclear weapons capabilities as it seeks to challenge America for the role of supreme military power. This goal may never be achieved, but the rise of China as a global power is an image the Chinese Communist Party is not hesitant to display.

Stealthy Bombers

One aspect of nuclear weapons delivery is through an intercontinental bomber. Due to radar and air defenses, any aircraft that hopes to drop nuclear bombs must be stealthy to reach the heartland of any somewhat advanced nation it is at war with.

America has had this capability since the 1980s when President Ronald Reagan oversaw the development of the B-2 Stealth Bomber. Decades later, when President Joe Biden took office, the B-21 Raider was revealed, a more modern sixth-generation upgrade.

China knows the upper hand that stealth bombers will give its military, and in 2016, it announced the Xian H-20, a stealth bomber not unlike the B-2. This aircraft is a flying wing designed for subsonic bombing missions.

While its statistics are unknown, it is likely designed to remain undetectable while it delivers a nuclear or unconventional payload thousands of miles away while penetrating enemy airspace.

This is a massive step forward for Chinese aviation since this marks the first time that the country rolled out a strategic stealth bomber, a previously lacking capability. The H-20 will also be the world’s first stealth bomber not built in America.

China’s International Ballistic Missile Program

Not to be outdone, the People’s Liberation Army Rocket Force also upgraded its intercontinental ballistic missile program.

Revealed in 2019, the Dongfeng-41 road-mobile missile can carry up to 10 warheads or a combination of actual and decoy warheads.

Dongfeng-41 intercontinental strategic nuclear missiles group China
A Dongfeng-41 intercontinental strategic nuclear missiles group formation marches to celebrate the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China in Beijing, October 2019.

This design feature increases the success of a nuclear strike, as any anti-ballistic missile defense can be overwhelmed by multiple warheads reentering Earth’s atmosphere to strike various targets.

Its road mobility also disguises its location, allowing it to be moved around China to increase its chances of remaining undetected.

Global Superpower

China has made it no secret that it plans on challenging America for its role as the world’s preeminent superpower. To do this, it must challenge, if not replace, America’s overwhelming military might.

Nuclear weapons allow China to do so. China is expanding its land-based silos, which house a significant portion of its intercontinental ballistic missiles, from roughly 300 to between 600 and 700. Silos are difficult to camouflage, owing to the wide-open space they need to occupy for launch, so this expansion is meant to send a message to the international community.

China is also constructing tunnels in mountain ranges, designed to provide multiple launching points for its mobile Dongfeng-41 while allowing it to be reloaded with more missiles safely underground.

It is no surprise that the Federation of American Scientists, a global policy think tank, believes that China’s “total ICBM force could potentially exceed that of either Russia and the United States in the foreseeable future.”

Worrying Parity

The Chinese Communist Party has made little effort to hide its global ambitions through the public revealing of ambitious nuclear expansion, but its development of stealth bombers and survivable intercontinental ballistic missiles proves that it intends to fight a nuclear war if push comes to shove.

Just like Russia and America during the Cold War, nuclear weapons may prevent conflict between China and the US as Beijing seeks to aggressively expand its influence throughout the Pacific, eventually rivaling America for its role as the global superpower.

China has a long way to go but has not shown any signs of slowing down its nuclear capabilities. It is likely that before this decade is out, China will have nuclear weapons and delivery systems nearly approximate to America — a worrying parity not seen since the Cold War decades ago.

Headshot Christopher GettelChristopher Gettel is an 8-year US Army veteran who served with the National Guard and 82nd Airborne Division. He has been deployed to Iraq twice, including participation in the liberation of Mosul.

Gettel recently finished a graduate certificate in Nuclear Deterrence from Harvard University’s Extension School and is now pursuing a master’s degree in International Security at George Mason University with the goal of completing a Ph.D. afterward.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial position of The Defense Post.

The Defense Post aims to publish a wide range of high-quality opinion and analysis from a diverse array of people – do you want to send us yours? Click here to submit an op-ed.

Related Articles

Back to top button