China may double its nuclear arsenal in just 10 years. Don’t panic.

“A new Pentagon report predicts China will double its number of nuclear warheads over the next 10 years. That certainly sounds scary, but the assessment actually offers a broadly reassuring message: Despite these expected advances, the US will remain the far stronger nuclear force well into the future.”

““Over the next decade, China’s nuclear warhead stockpile — currently estimated to be in the low 200s — is projected to at least double in size as China expands and modernizes its nuclear forces,” the report says.”
““The US nuclear stockpile numbers about 3,800 [active] warheads. That’s almost 20 times as many as China has now and 10 times what China is projected to build over the next decade,”” 

““China probably has enough nuclear materials to at least double its warhead stockpile without new fissile material production,” the report reads. In other words, Beijing couldn’t more than double its arsenal unless it produced more plutonium to build bombs, an effort the world — including the US — would detect pretty easily. “That would be expensive, slow, and visible,” said James Acton, the co-director of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace’s nuclear program.” 

“None of this should lead to complacency in the Pentagon. As Acton told me, China still has enough warheads, and long-range missiles to place them on, “to destroy the US as a functioning society.” And other government reports make clear China’s military prowess could match America’s in just 30 years. It’s why experts think it’s a good idea for the US to seriously engage in China in arms control talks, among other things, as a way to blunt an arms race.

“The important thing to keep in mind is that China can afford a much larger nuclear force than it has now,” said Middlebury’s Lewis.”

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