The report also highlighted several developments that could threaten the US more directly than China’s conventional forces — namely China’s “large-scale expansion of its nuclear forces.” That expansion is well documented. The Pentagon’s 2020 report on China’s military noted that Beijing’s stockpile of nuclear warheads would at least double by the end of the decade. But this year’s report includes a more urgent message: China “has accelerated its nuclear expansion” and is “exceeding the pace and size the DoD projected in 2020,” the Pentagon said.
This month, a Chinese arms-control official denied those assertions, but Beijing’s work is still seen as troubling. It’s also a reminder of just how small China’s nuclear arsenal was and is compared to other major powers, and it shows how dramatically Chinese thinking about nuclear weapons has shifted in recent years.