China is rapidly expanding its nuclear arsenal at a pace faster than previously estimated by the United States, according to a Pentagon report released on Thursday. The report reveals that China had “over 500 operational nuclear warheads as of May 2023” and is “likely to have over 1,000 by 2030,” aligning with President Xi Jinping’s ambitions.
The report also outlines China’s expanding and modernizing military, exerting significant pressure on Taiwan, an autonomous island whose sovereignty Beijing claims.
While the nuclear warhead numbers are similar to a 2021 Pentagon report, a high-ranking defense official emphasized that China is “on a trajectory to exceed” Washington’s previous estimates. He stated, “We’re not trying to suggest a huge change in the direction that they seemed to be on… but we suggest that they are on a trajectory to exceed those previous projections,” expressing significant concerns and urging Beijing to be more transparent.
Additionally, the report notes China’s efforts to enhance its ability to launch these warheads from land, aircraft, or submarines. It indicates that China has “likely completed” the construction of intercontinental ballistic missile launch facilities with over 300 silos in total.
In comparison, the United States possesses 3,708 nuclear warheads, and Russia has 4,489, as per the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (Sipri), which attributes 410 warheads to China.
The United States considers China its primary strategic challenge and “the only rival with the will and, increasingly, the capability to change the international order.” Despite tense relations, bilateral dialogue between Beijing and Washington has resumed in recent months. However, China continues to resist direct, high-level military communication.