1996-Present: China’s Continual Modernization and Expansion of its Nuclear Weapons Capabilities

China closely guards information about its nuclear arsenal, making estimation unusually difficult. However, recent estimates have placed the size of China’s nuclear stockpile (# of warheads) at around 290, but some estimate that China may have had highly-enriched uranium and plutonium stockpiled enough to support a nuclear weapons arsenal size in the high hundreds. Detailed estimates of China’s missile arsenal, nuclear material stockpiles, missile launch sites, and other nuclear-capable technologies can be found on the Nuclear Threat Initiative’s website at Chine nuclear.

Since declaring a moratorium on nuclear weapons testing, China has continued to modernize its nuclear weapons arsenal through other means. In particular, China continues to add new missile capabilities to its nuclear force, by enhancing silo-based ICBMs, increasing the number of survivable mobile delivery systems (warhead delivery systems that can be recovered post-detonation), and developing advanced, mobile solid-propellant ICBMs.

China also has a very active and diverse ballistic missile development program. In 2015, the Chinese Ministry of National Defense published its most recent policy statement, China’s Military Strategy. Although China had previously declared a NFU (no-first-use) nuclear weapons policy, ambiguous statements made in this updated document have given rise to the speculation that China may abandon its NFU policy if the country were at risk.