China’s Nukes: Part of a Much Bigger Problem for the USA

CommentaryThe recently published U.S. Department of Defense "China Power" report provides a detailed description of the Chinese regime’s military, capabilities, and likely objectives.The section on China’s rapid nuclear weapons expansion created a particular stir—as it caught many observers by surprise.A friend asked what this writer made of it all.The rapid expansion of the regime's nuclear arsenal that American analysts now mostly agree on reflects the broader, rapid growth of People’s Liberation Army (PLA) capabilities over the last 20 years—that is fairly considered the biggest, fastest military buildup of any country since World War II, if not in human history.For many years, the "expert consensus" of China's nuclear warhead inventory was around 300 or even fewer. Then, in 2021, that estimate changed to over 400—all of a sudden. And now it's estimated to be 500 warheads—with that number doubling by 2030. As importantly, the regime is developing more and increasingly effective and accurate delivery systems for nuclear weapons.Related Stories11/27/202311/27/2023It's worth noting that "expert consensus" has usually underestimated the rate at which Chinese military capabilities of all sorts develop—and often miss by a decade or two.Take PLA Navy aircraft carriers: the thinking was that the Chinese would need decades even to begin to master carrier operations. Indeed, such was the lack of concern—if not condescension—on the U.S. side that the then-commander of the Pacific Command, Adm. Timothy Keating, noted in 2009 that he saw nothing wrong with the PLA Navy having aircraft carriers and that the United States would help, if asked.Now, the PLA Navy has three carriers and is rapidly figuring out how to use them.One fairly asks if something similar has taken place with estimates of Chinese nuclear weapons. One should at least consider the possibility that U.S. intelligence has slipped up (it’s not exactly unusual) and China, in fact, has far more nuclear warheads than currently estimated.However, such questions are unwelcome by the China experts—and have been for a long time. Around 2011, Phillip Karber suggested—based partly on the fact that China's 2nd Artillery Rocket Force (responsible for nuclear weapons operations) had several thousand miles of underground tunnels in which it might hide nuclear weapons—that China just might have far more than a small, few hundred warhead arsenal.For this prudent, commonsensical suggestion, Mr. Karber was savaged and ridiculed by the "China hands." And reportedly, the senior-most U.S. intelligence officials instructed that Mr. Karber be discredited.There are still too many "China experts" who seem to be bending over backward to downplay Chinese military capabilities—and insist that there is nothing to worry about—especially when it comes to Taiwan and that we have plenty of time to prepare before China becomes a real threat.But how serious is the Chinese nuclear threat in terms of fighting and winning wars?It's very serious. The Chinese regime will have a huge nuclear arsenal—if it already doesn't. And it's not just a question of numbers. It's as much a question of "will" and your enemy thinking that you just might use your nukes.The more ruthless side has the advantage.I expect Beijing to use its nuclear weapons to intimidate Washington and its allies.Are you listening Japan, Australia, and South Korea?Would Beijing actually use nuclear weapons?I would not care to bet my pension that they would not.Don't forget that China’s "no limits partner," Russia, has a huge nuclear force and just might align it with China's—at least for purposes of coercion. North Korean and, eventually, Iranian nuclear weapons are similarly best regarded as part of the Chinese nuclear toolkit.These nations are not perfect allies, but their strategic interests versus the free world align.But don’t we have some time since the DOD report notes that the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) goal is to have a “world-class” military by 2049?The PLA is already a capable military that has caught up with and surpassed the U.S. military in certain areas, such as a bigger navy, a massively bigger shipbuilding capacity, and a more capable missile force, including hypersonic missiles.And remember that a military only has to do a certain thing at a certain time and at a certain place. Indeed, if the CCP picks its time and place, it could give the Americans a bloody nose, if not defeat them. This is particularly the case in the South China Sea, where the PLA achieved "de facto" control at least five or six years ago.Chinese military "power projection" for an outright war drops off quickly once one gets, say, 1,000 miles from Chinese borders. But the PLA aims to correct this shortcoming and build up a global port and airfield infrastructure to which it will have access—and be able to operate globally, just like the U.S. military.Just wait five or ten years and see how far the Chinese military has gotten—probably much

China’s Nukes: Part of a Much Bigger Problem for the USA

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Commentary

The recently published U.S. Department of Defense "China Power" report provides a detailed description of the Chinese regime’s military, capabilities, and likely objectives.

The section on China’s rapid nuclear weapons expansion created a particular stir—as it caught many observers by surprise.

A friend asked what this writer made of it all.

The rapid expansion of the regime's nuclear arsenal that American analysts now mostly agree on reflects the broader, rapid growth of People’s Liberation Army (PLA) capabilities over the last 20 years—that is fairly considered the biggest, fastest military buildup of any country since World War II, if not in human history.

For many years, the "expert consensus" of China's nuclear warhead inventory was around 300 or even fewer. Then, in 2021, that estimate changed to over 400—all of a sudden. And now it's estimated to be 500 warheads—with that number doubling by 2030. As importantly, the regime is developing more and increasingly effective and accurate delivery systems for nuclear weapons.

It's worth noting that "expert consensus" has usually underestimated the rate at which Chinese military capabilities of all sorts develop—and often miss by a decade or two.

Take PLA Navy aircraft carriers: the thinking was that the Chinese would need decades even to begin to master carrier operations. Indeed, such was the lack of concern—if not condescension—on the U.S. side that the then-commander of the Pacific Command, Adm. Timothy Keating, noted in 2009 that he saw nothing wrong with the PLA Navy having aircraft carriers and that the United States would help, if asked.

Now, the PLA Navy has three carriers and is rapidly figuring out how to use them.

One fairly asks if something similar has taken place with estimates of Chinese nuclear weapons. One should at least consider the possibility that U.S. intelligence has slipped up (it’s not exactly unusual) and China, in fact, has far more nuclear warheads than currently estimated.

However, such questions are unwelcome by the China experts—and have been for a long time. Around 2011, Phillip Karber suggested—based partly on the fact that China's 2nd Artillery Rocket Force (responsible for nuclear weapons operations) had several thousand miles of underground tunnels in which it might hide nuclear weapons—that China just might have far more than a small, few hundred warhead arsenal.

For this prudent, commonsensical suggestion, Mr. Karber was savaged and ridiculed by the "China hands." And reportedly, the senior-most U.S. intelligence officials instructed that Mr. Karber be discredited.

There are still too many "China experts" who seem to be bending over backward to downplay Chinese military capabilities—and insist that there is nothing to worry about—especially when it comes to Taiwan and that we have plenty of time to prepare before China becomes a real threat.

But how serious is the Chinese nuclear threat in terms of fighting and winning wars?

It's very serious. The Chinese regime will have a huge nuclear arsenal—if it already doesn't. And it's not just a question of numbers. It's as much a question of "will" and your enemy thinking that you just might use your nukes.

The more ruthless side has the advantage.

I expect Beijing to use its nuclear weapons to intimidate Washington and its allies.

Are you listening Japan, Australia, and South Korea?

Would Beijing actually use nuclear weapons?

I would not care to bet my pension that they would not.

Don't forget that China’s "no limits partner," Russia, has a huge nuclear force and just might align it with China's—at least for purposes of coercion. North Korean and, eventually, Iranian nuclear weapons are similarly best regarded as part of the Chinese nuclear toolkit.

These nations are not perfect allies, but their strategic interests versus the free world align.

But don’t we have some time since the DOD report notes that the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) goal is to have a “world-class” military by 2049?

The PLA is already a capable military that has caught up with and surpassed the U.S. military in certain areas, such as a bigger navy, a massively bigger shipbuilding capacity, and a more capable missile force, including hypersonic missiles.

And remember that a military only has to do a certain thing at a certain time and at a certain place. Indeed, if the CCP picks its time and place, it could give the Americans a bloody nose, if not defeat them. This is particularly the case in the South China Sea, where the PLA achieved "de facto" control at least five or six years ago.

Chinese military "power projection" for an outright war drops off quickly once one gets, say, 1,000 miles from Chinese borders. But the PLA aims to correct this shortcoming and build up a global port and airfield infrastructure to which it will have access—and be able to operate globally, just like the U.S. military.

Just wait five or ten years and see how far the Chinese military has gotten—probably much farther than the "China experts" imagine.

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Not Just a Shooting War

But while we’re talking about a future war, the CCP reckons it is already at war with the United States.

Indeed, the regime has been attacking us on economic, financial, biological (think COVID-19), chemical (think fentanyl), cyber, political, psychological, and media/propaganda fronts for a few decades.

The kinetic war will come in due course, if it's even necessary. The U.S. elite and political classes, by and large, refuse to recognize what the Chinese regime is doing and has in store for us. The regime aims to defeat and dominate us.

Even more maddening, Wall Street and the U.S. business class have been funding the Chinese military buildup and pressuring successive administrations and politicians not to respond and to do nothing that Beijing won't like and that threatens its gravy trains.

We're at war, and we just might lose.

Views expressed in this article are opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.