China

China is a nuclear-armed state, estimated by the SIPRI Yearbook 2013 to possess around 250 nuclear weapons of various designs and ranges. An estimated 175 are estimated to be ‘active’, i.e. operationally available though not necessarily deployed.  China began developing nuclear weapons in the late 1950s and conducted its first nuclear test explosion on 16 October 1964.  It launched its first nuclear missile on 25 October 1966 and detonated its first hydrogen bomb on 14 June 1967.  China conducted 45 nuclear tests at its Lop Nor test site in Xinjiang before stopping in 1996.

China acceded to the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (N...

China is a nuclear-armed state, estimated by the SIPRI Yearbook 2013 to possess around 250 nuclear weapons of various designs and ranges. An estimated 175 are estimated to be ‘active’, i.e. operationally available though not necessarily deployed.  China began developing nuclear weapons in the late 1950s and conducted its first nuclear test explosion on 16 October 1964.  It launched its first nuclear missile on 25 October 1966 and detonated its first hydrogen bomb on 14 June 1967.  China conducted 45 nuclear tests at its Lop Nor test site in Xinjiang before stopping in 1996.

China acceded to the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) in 1992, and became a Nuclear Weapon State (NWS) Party, as it met the definition of a NWS in the treaty text.  China has signed but not ratified the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT).  It is one of 8 of the 44 "Annex 2" states that must sign and ratify before the CTBT can formally enter into force.  China is a state party to both the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention (BWC) and the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC).  As at January 2012, China had not signed the Mine Ban Treaty or the Convention on Cluster Munitions (CCM).  It is a member of the 65 nation Conference on Disarmament (CD).  It has been a member of the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) only since 2004.

Of the P-5 NWS, China is the only one still to be increasing the size and range of its nuclear forces, taking it higher than the UK but still with fewer than France and the others.  Most of China’s nuclear forces are landbased, both mobile and in silos, although it has some nuclear-capable bombers and air-dropped weapons.  Though China has one out-dated Xia-class nuclear-powered, nuclear-weapon capable submarine (SSBN) and is believed to be developing three Jin-class SSBNs, these are not currently regarded as operationally deployed.

When China first tested nuclear weapons in 1964, it publicised three basic tenets of its nuclear policy which have continued to be reiterated:  the commitment that it will not use nuclear weapons first (no first use); that it will not use nuclear weapons against a country without nuclear weapons (unconditional negative security assurance); statement of commitment to the complete prohibition and thorough destruction of nuclear weapons; and support for an international conference on total and complete disarmament.   At the UN Security Council Summit on 24 September 2009, President Hu Jintao argued that all the nuclear-armed countries should engage in a multilateral nuclear disarmament process “when conditions are ripe”, noting that: “in order to bring about complete and thorough nuclear disarmament the international community should, at a suitable point in time, formulate a feasible long-term plan with separate stages, including the establishment of a Treaty on the Complete Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons”.  This suggests that though Beijing has long taken a rhetorical position akin to US President Obama’s call for a world free of nuclear weapons, its fundamental policy will remain cautious: it will vote in favour of Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) resolutions on a nuclear weapons convention, but will not take any kind of leading role or set itself apart from the other NWS. 

Since 1999, China has expressed concern about US plans for ballistic missile defences (BMD) and the dangers of using space as a base for weapons strikes.  In 2002, China joined with Russia to table a draft “Treaty on the Prevention of the Deployment of Weapons in Outer Space, [and of] the Threat or Use of Force Against Outer Space Objects" (PPWT) in the Conference on Disarmament (CD). US opposition and CD deadlock have prevented any movement towards negotiations, though the draft has been revised and tabled again with more co-sponsors, most recently on 12 February 2008.  In 2006 China conducted an ASAT (anti-satellite) test in which it fired a long range ballistic missile at one of its own (reportedly defunct) satellites. The destruction of this satellite into thousands of fragments that have added to the space debris problem in orbit around the Earth caused worldwide condemnation.  While continuing to sponsor the PPWT, China is responding to US BMD programmes and military developments in space by investing in and accelerating its own military space capabilities.  While supplying Pakistan’s nuclear programme, China has continued to raise concerns about nuclear-armed India on its borders and was opposed to the US-India deal for a nuclear exemption from the NSG.

3 September 2014

In most of the international relations literature we read today about the Asia of the twenty-first century, we are told time and time again that this region, my region, is increasingly becoming the centre of global geo-economic gravity. And the literature is right. Whatever the economic measure...

2 September 2014

China and the United States recently conducted development tests of hypersonic missiles, designed to travel many times the speed of sound and reach targets thousands of miles away in an hour or less. Both tests failed, showing that hypersonic propulsion and flight—which involve...

16 June 2014

All five legally recognised nuclear-weapons states – China, France, Russia, Britain and the US – are deploying new nuclear weapon delivery systems or have announced programmes to do so, according to an authoritative study.

India and Pakistan are also developing new systems...

Dr Rebecca Johnson
24 May 2010

Oh dear oh dear oh dear! Today in Main Committee I we were treated to what looked like a semi-coordinated Push Back by the P-5 Nuclear Weapons Addicts.  One by one they took the floor to complain about a number of places where the nuclear weapons possessors were, to quote Russia, being “put...

Dr Rebecca Johnson
5 May 2010

There continued to be a long day of national statements to the Review Conference, some good, some pedestrian.  Wanting to pay attention to these, but stretched between various NGO and sidebar events, it is difficult to distinguish between positions that sound increasingly similar, as almost...

Dr Rebecca Johnson
13 May 2014

On Friday, the UN-hosted meeting of around 140 of the 190 states that are party to the 1968 Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons  (NPT) ended with procedural successes, but there was no agreement on the substantive issues,...

Dr Rebecca Johnson
19 February 2014

“Nayarit is a point of no return” declared Juan Manuel Gómez Robledo, Mexico’s Vice Minister for Multilateral Affairs and Human Rights, delivering the Chair’s Summary as he closed the Second International Conference on the...

Tim Caughley
2 December 2012
There are good reasons for the inclusion of the consensus rule in the Conference of Disarmament’s Rules of Procedure.  These are discussed below.  But the consensus rule is being eroded tacitly or directly by those who are most keen to preserve it....
21 May 2013

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Alistair Burt): I would like to update the House on the outcome of the recent conference of the five nuclear non-proliferation treaty (NPT) nuclear weapon states (the “P5”). The conference, hosted by...

25 February 2013

Mr Gregory Campbell: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (1) what discussions he plans to have with his counterparts at the United Nations on the nuclear test in north Korea and measures to prevent an increase in such activity; [143807]

(2) what discussions...

22 November 2012

Moved by Lord Browne of Ladyton

That this House takes note of the case for intensified discussions on multilateral nuclear disarmament with China.

Lord Browne of Ladyton: My Lords, in moving the Motion standing in my name, I draw the attention of your Lordships to my entry in the...

Author(s): Negotiators for P5+1 & Iran
24 November 2013

Preamble

The goal for these negotiations is to reach a mutually-agreed long-term comprehensive solution that
would ensure Iran's nuclear programme will be exclusively peaceful. Iran reaffirms that under no
circumstances will Iran ever seek or develop any...

Author(s): P5 states (China, France, Russia, UK, USA)
19 April 2013

The five Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) nuclear-weapon states, or "P5," met in Geneva on April 18-19, 2013 under the chairmanship of the Russian Federation to build on the 2009 London, 2011 Paris, and 2012 Washington P5 conferences. The P5 reviewed progress towards fulfilling...

Author(s): G8 Foreign Ministers
11 April 2013

The G8 Foreign Ministers have issued a joint statement following their meeting on 10 and 11 April 2013 in London.

Introduction
G8 Foreign Ministers met in London on 10-11 April. The G8 represents a group of nations with a broad range of global interests and with...

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