The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) just published its 2022 report on the state of nuclear arms and although there was a slight decline in 2022, China’s efforts will lead an expansion of arms into the next decade.
As the cold war agreements between the United States and Russia begin to wind down, with no new negotiations in sight, China is currently developing 300 new launch sites. Although the U.S. and Russia are responsible for around 90% of the world’s nuclear weapons, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has been busy enlarging its submarine and mobile launch platforms in addition to the static sites.
China is on pace to soon pass the United Kingdom as the third-ranked nuclear power in the world. This trend is causing its regional competitor, India, to ramp up its program in response. Pakistan will certainly attempt to match India’s production, given the long history of conflict between the two countries.
As China attempts to become the next superpower, its actions will have the unintended consequence of setting off a new arms race in the region.
In the Cold War, the mutually assured destruction of the two parties involved made it easier to predict each nation’s actions. Each country was incentivized to pursue rational policies and interpret its opposition’s actions in the same way. With third-party countries expanding their arsenals, the chance for accidents and incorrectly predicting behavior increases. It may even be in a country’s best interest to encourage a nuclear exchange between two other countries.
The CCP is not shying away from publicizing its advances. Its recent hypersonic missile test, which went around the world, was a stark warning for the United States and the Western powers. Not only is China increasing the number of warheads, but it has ways of delivering them that NATO currently cannot defend against.
The bi-polar world of NATO versus Russia is fast dissipating into history as other countries are catching up in their nuclear capabilities. As a result, we now live in a much more complex and less safe world.