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Precise information on the extent of China’s nuclear arsenal is difficult to obtain, due to a lack of open source information and often contradictory or exaggerated claims.

Over the last two decades China has, however, been actively expanding its nuclear capabilities in order to achieve a more robust and survivable nuclear force; at the same time as developing a credible second-strike capability.

  • China’s nuclear posture is based on the concept of “self-defence” and, as such, it maintains a nuclear force based on the minimum required for its national security.
  • It has a longstanding no first-use policy.
  • China’s nuclear stockpile is estimated at 320 warheads.
  • Nuclear forces are maintained at a low alert level. No warheads are thought to be operationally deployed but kept in storage under central control.
  • Is believed to have achieved a viable nuclear triad.
  • Does not operate continuous at-sea deterrence.

It is the only acknowledged nuclear weapon state under the NPT that is expanding its nuclear inventory. This has raised questions over the compatibility of its modernisation plans with its posture of self-defence and no first use.


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