2. What is China's nuclear strategy?
The Pentagon concludes that "China's nuclear arsenal currently consists of about 50-75 silo-based, liquid-fueled and road-mobile, solid-fueled ICBMs." The Pentagon doesn't attempt to estimate the total number of nuclear weapons that China possesses, although it's generally assumed to have a much smaller nuclear arsenal than the U.S. cache of over 5,000 nukes. Nonetheless, theories that Beijing possesses or plans to develop a much bigger nuclear weapons stockpile just won't die down. Speculation last year that China may have as many as 3,500 nuclear warheads -- predicated on rumors of a sprawling network of underground tunnels -- has been reliably trashed, but some still argue that Beijing sees a strategic opportunity in building a nuclear arsenal that could match or even exceed that of the United States in the coming decades.
China currently has only two Jin-class Type 094 nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarines (SSBNs) in service, the Pentagon tells us, and the missiles designed to arm the subs are not yet operational (though when they are, they will be nuclear-capable). Two submarines aren't much of a strategic deterrent for an aspiring superpower, but the true scope of the SSBN fleet that China plans to build remains unknown.