Hans M. Kristensen* & Robert S. Norris
Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists
Volume 72, Issue 4, 2016
Published online: 13 Jun 2016
The modernization of China’s land-based nuclear-capable missile force has progressed significantly over the past year, with Beijing fielding a new version of an existing nuclear missile and a new dual-capable missile. The country has also reorganized its nuclear missile command structure. The authors estimate that, in total, China has a stockpile of approximately 260 nuclear warheads for delivery by nearly 150 land-based ballistic missiles, 48 sea-based ballistic missiles, and bombers. The Chinese intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) force will probably continue to grow slowly, such that the number of ICBM warheads primarily targeted against the United States may exceed 100 a decade from now. Although there is no sign that the Chinese government has officially diverted from its no-first-use nuclear policy, its modernization program is adding significant new capabilities. These qualitative improvements may in turn alter Chinese nuclear policy and strategy.