The sight of a Chinese spy balloon last week has forced many Americans to confront the security threat the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) poses to America’s homeland. Unfortunately, the CCP possesses something far scarier and deadlier than balloons: a rapidly growing stockpile of nuclear weapons.
Measured by the number of nuclear warheads, China has at least 350 as of June 2022, far less than Russia’s 5,977 and the United States’ 5,428. Still, the speed at which China is building up its nuclear arsenal is worrisome.
Last year, a U.S. Department of Defense report predicted that “China would field a stockpile of about 1,500 warheads by 2035.” At the end of last month, right before the balloon became national news, the Pentagon told Congress, “The number of land-based fixed and mobile ICBM launchers in China exceeds the number of ICBM launchers in the United States.” ICBM stands for intercontinental ballistic missile, which can reach a target more than 5,000 miles away. Whether by coincidence or design, during the balloon’s week-long “tour” in the U.S., it flew by Montana, where more than 100 U.S. ICBMs are stationed.
One explanation of the CCP’s motive for rapidly growing its nuclear weapons stockpiles is that the CCP has witnessed how Russia’s possession of nuclear weapons has deterred Western democracies and the United States from directly engaging in a military conflict between Russia and Ukraine. Should China’s People’s Liberation Army invade Taiwan, the CCP probably hopes its growing nuclear weapon stockpiles will also deter Taiwan’s allies, including Japan and the U.S., from coming to Taiwan’s rescue. Undoubtedly, China’s nuclear weapons threaten the security of the U.S. and its allies in Asia.
What’s even more depressing is that the U.S. helped China build its nuclear weapons. The Wall Street Journal reported that the China Academy of Engineering Physics (CAEP), the nation’s top nuclear weapons research institute, has been able to acquire U.S.-made advanced semiconductor chips on the open market in the last two years to assist Chinese scientists’ research, which can have applications to China’s nuclear weapons program.
This revelation shocked many because the U.S. government has put such advanced semiconductor chips on its export restriction list and blacklisted CAEP on an entity list, aiming to prevent American firms from selling semiconductor chips to CAEP. The Bureau of Industry and Security, a U.S. Department of Commerce division, has administered most of the export controls for decades. Yet Georgetown University’s Center for Security and Emerging Technology (CSET) analysis found that U.S. semiconductor exports to China increased between 2014 and 2018. The CSET’s research and the WSJ report prove that the Bureau of Industry and Security needs to administer and enforce export controls more effectively.
Equally depressing is the Biden administration’s blind faith in denuclearization through an arms-control treaty. President Obama signed an arms control pact, known as a New START, with Russia in 2010. The treaty limits the United States and Russia to deploying no more than 1,550 strategic nuclear warheads each.
New START has many flaws, one of which is that it doesn’t address how to limit Russia’s capacity to pursue other nuclear weapons outside the treaty. Predictably, Russia has been taking advantage of this loophole by modernizing its existing nuclear weapons and developing new ones while claiming compliance with the treaty.
Rather than addressing New START’s many defects, President Biden extended it to another five years on his second day in office. His administration tried to cap China’s nuclear weapon buildup by bringing it into New START’s framework, and China adamantly refused.
A few days ago, Russia reportedly breached the New START treaty by refusing to allow on-site inspection of its nuclear arsenal. The treaty risks falling apart right in front of our eyes.
While the New START treaty has failed to limit Russia’s nuclear weapon buildup, according to Rep. Mike Rogers, a Republican from Alabama who chairs the House Armed Services Committee, it “has inhibited the U.S. from building up its arsenal to deter Russia and China.”
The Biden administration’s approach risks putting America in a perilous situation. There is no ending in sight of the Russia-Ukraine war, and the Biden administration has gotten the U.S. more profoundly involved with the conflict by throwing enormous military resources into Ukraine “every two weeks, like clockwork,” according to John Kirby, the spokesman for the Pentagon.
Suppose China’s Xi Jinping decides to invade Taiwan as soon as 2025, as predicted by four-star Air Force Gen. Mike Minihan. In that case, the United States may be forced to involve itself in two military conflicts against two adversaries backed by nuclear weapons, and it will be a nightmare scenario.
Hopefully, the Chinese spy balloon incident will become a turning point, a wake-up call for a divided nation. We must stop infighting and self-imposed decline and destruction. Instead, we ought to focus our energy and resources on how to protect our homeland.