The Washington Times and Gertz have been having multiple orgasms lately as they set the blogosphere on fire with frightening accounts of the great China threat, including massive investments in sophiosticated nuclear arms and preparations for an imminent invasion of Taiwan (followed by attacks on Guam and Hawaii!). A well-qualified researcher says you shouldn’t believe a word of it.
If you read the Washington Times, in addition to believing that Iraqi weapons of mass destruction are hidden somewhere in Syria, you might believe that “China’s aggressive strategic nuclear-modernization program” was proceeding apace. If munching on freedom fries at a Heritage Foundation luncheon is your thing, you might worry that “even marginal improvements to [China’s intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs)] derived from U.S. technical know-how” threaten the United States.
So, it may come as a shock to learn that China’s nuclear arsenal is about the same size it was a decade ago, and that the missile that prompted the Washington Times article has been under development since the mid-1980s. Perhaps your anxiety about “marginal improvements” to China’s missile force would recede as you learned that China’s 18 ICBMs, sitting unfueled in their silos, their nuclear warheads in storage, are essentially the same as they were the day China began deploying them in 1981. In fact, contrary to reports you might have recently read that Chinese nukes number in the hundreds–if not the thousands–the true size of the country’s operationally deployed arsenal is probably about 80 nuclear weapons.
It’s short and well documented, so have a look.
We all know there isn’t much love lost between the CCP and me, but whipping up hysteria over non-existent weapons seems like a spectacular waste of time.
Richard Burger is the author of Behind the Red Door: Sex in China, an exploration of China's sexual revolution and its clash with traditional Chinese values.