Anti-Imperialism/Foreign Policy

China is building up its military. What are its goals?

The Week Staff

China already has the world’s largest fighting force. Now Beijing is pouring resources into its nuclear arsenal.

China is testing hypersonic missiles and building new nuclear missile silos. What are its goals? Here’s everything you need to know:

What has China been doing?

Already in possession of the world’s largest fighting force of some 2.2 million troops, China has begun pouring resources into its nuclear arsenal. While it long had about 20 silo-based intercontinental ballistic missiles and some 200 warheads overall as a nuclear deterrent, new satellite images show China has been rapidly building hundreds more silos to potentially fill with nuclear missiles. The Pentagon believes its warheads will double to 400 in the next decade. That’s on top of a weapons construction spree that has seen China’s navy exceed that of the U.S. in number of ships — although many of them are smaller, less potent vessels — while its air force has built some 200 advanced J-16 fighter jets and J-20 stealth jets in the past six years. Its latest military budget of $209 billion is some 7 percent higher than the previous year’s, and three times those of No. 3 and No. 4, India and Russia. To flex its new muscles, China recently sent some 150 planes into Taiwan’s air defense zone and encircled Japan with its warships. “They are clearly challenging us regionally,” said Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, “and their aspiration is to challenge the United States globally.”

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