China and weapons of mass destruction

The People's Republic of China has developed and possesses weapons of mass destruction, including chemical and nuclear weapons. The first of China's nuclear weapons tests took place in 1964, and its first hydrogen bomb test occurred in 1967. Tests continued until 1996, when China signed the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT). China has acceded to the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention (BWC) in 1984 and ratified the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) in 1997.

People's Republic of China
First nuclear weapon testOctober 16, 1964
First thermonuclear weapon testJune 17, 1967
Last nuclear testJuly 29, 1996
Largest yield test4 Mt
  • Atmospheric – 4 Mt (November 17, 1976)
  • Underground – 660~1,000 kt (May 21, 1992)
Total tests45[1]
Current stockpile~350[2] (2020 est)
Current strategic arsenalUnknown
Cumulative strategic arsenal in megatonnage294 megatons (2009 est.)[3][4]
Maximum missile range15,000 km[5]
NPT partyYes (1992, one of five recognized powers)

The number of nuclear warheads in China's arsenal is a state secret. There are varying estimates of the size of China's arsenal. China was estimated by the Federation of American Scientists to have an arsenal of about 260 total warheads as of 2015, the fourth largest nuclear arsenal amongst the five nuclear weapon states acknowledged by the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, and one of 320 total warheads by the SIPRI Yearbook 2020, the third largest.[6] According to some estimates,[who?] the country could "more than double" the "number of warheads on missiles that could threaten the United States by the mid-2020s".[7]

Early in 2011, China published a defense white paper, which repeated its nuclear policies of maintaining a minimum deterrent with a no-first-use pledge. China has yet to define what it means by a "minimum deterrent posture". This, together with the fact that "it is deploying four new nuclear-capable ballistic missiles, invites concern as to the scale and intention of China’s nuclear upgrade".[7]


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