OPINION / OBSERVER
To safeguard national security, it is time for China to build up nuclear deterrent
Published: May 09, 2020 07:43 PM

A formation of Dongfeng-41 intercontinental strategic nuclear missiles takes part in a military parade celebrating the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic of China in Beijing, capital of China, Oct. 1, 2019. (Xinhua/Tao Liang)


I suggested in a Weibo post on Friday that China should increase its nuclear warheads to 1,000 in a relatively short time span, and to procure at least 100 DF-41 strategic missiles. 

In the past, China's storage of nuclear weapons was deemed sufficient to generate adequate nuclear deterrent, however, it doesn't mean the same storage will be big enough in the future to curb US government's strategic ambitions and bullying impulse against China. 

In the past, China was not even considered a significant strategic competitor by the US government, although many in this country believed China's limited ability to launch a tit-for-tat retaliatory nuclear strike was sufficient to deter Washington. Then China was only a second-rate and relatively poor country.

Today, the US government has identified China as its largest strategic competitor, and Washington is more likely to exert all its power at its disposal to suppress and intimidate China. If the US government deems necessary, it is highly likely that it could even take similar risks that led to the Cuban missile crisis. 

From China's current standpoint, the nuclear deterrence this country needs today is of a different magnitude from what was required in the past. China needs to possess the real power to prevent the US politicians from gambling with its nuclear armament and harming China. To clarify it, if the US initiates a nuclear war at China, it must not have any chance of winning -- that's the kind of nuclear deterrent China must secure.

In the event of a serious military confrontation between China and the US in the Taiwan Straits or the South China Sea, the first shot fired by the two sides will immediately remind people of the comparison of nuclear power between them. It is ultimately the nuclear arsenal that will inspire either side not to retreat. 

China now has far fewer nuclear weapons than the US. The Taiwan Straits and the South China Sea are the core interests of China, which are geographically far away from the US and can be deemed as non-core interests. However, if the US believes it must subdue China in the Taiwan Straits or in the South China Sea, and considers defeating China in order to maintain its global hegemony, then China must fix its nuclear gap with the US. Look at all those insanities gripping top US politicians over the last two years, and how Washington is moving aggressively and even hysterically to contain China. 

Nuclear war causes dreadful human disaster and is unthinkable, but nuclear deterrence sits silently at the corner, functioning every minute. Some may agree that US' arrogance against China derives from its nuclear advantage over China, and the arrogance will increasingly dominate US policies toward China. 

The Chinese experts who claim China does not need a bigger depot of nuclear weapons should think about this: Since President Donald Trump took office, which country is the target of US' sharply increased nuclear arsenal investment? When Washington is getting itself increasingly prepared, how could China just sit back and take no action at all?

I am not a warmonger but a staunch peace lover. I firmly oppose nuclear war as well as conventional war. However, a country is unable to beg for peace. Everybody knows that nuclear weapons should never be used in reality. But nuclear arsenal is not only military weaponry, but also the cornerstone of American politics and psychology. 

China is committed not to be the first to launch nuclear weapons, and it will never threaten non-nuclear countries with its nuclear arsenal. However, if China's nuclear deterrence is comparatively weakened, China's national interests and national security will be harmed. 

In conclusion, I would like to say that at a time when China is considered as the biggest strategic competitor of the US, if China continues to adhere to the US definition of nuclear deterrence to guide our actions, it would bring us a tragedy. 

The author is editor-in-chief of the Global Times. opinion@globaltimes.com.cn


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