U.S. defense officials are increasingly concerned about the deepening relationship between Moscow and Beijing, particularly as China grows its nuclear and naval capabilities.
The Pentagon’s annual assessment of “Military and Security Developments Involving the People’s Republic of China” revealed that Beijing has likely surpassed last year’s estimated number of nuclear warheads. As of May, Beijing had roughly 500 nukes, up from the 400 estimated a year prior. The 2022 version of the report predicted Beijing would surpass 1,000 warheads by 2030.
By comparison, Russia has an estimated 5,889 nuclear warheads in its stockpile, while the United States has 5,244, according to the Washington-based Arms Control Association. France has 290, and the United Kingdom has 225.
China has also grown its navy to roughly 370 ships, up from about 340 last year. Congress in 2018 ordered the U.S. Navy to grow to 350 ships as soon as feasible, but there were just 291 ships in the American fleet as of October 2023. Since World War II, the U.S. has relied on its many alliances with democratic and like-minded nations to maintain global security.
After almost 20 months of war with Ukraine, Moscow is increasingly looking to its fellow U.S. adversaries for help supplying weapons and equipment and strengthening ties through cooperation. China views its “no limits” partnership with Russia as integral to advancing the PRC’s development and emergence as a great power.
China is attempting to keep the relationship inconspicuous, at least on the world stage. U.S. officials believe Beijing has attempted a discreet approach to providing material support to Russia for its war against Ukraine.
According to the report, China views its partnership with Russia as “integral” to its development into a world power. In addition, sanctions levied on Russia “almost certainly have amplified China’s push for defense and technological self-sufficiency and financial resilience.” Moreover, “The PRC almost certainly is learning lessons from the Russian war of aggression in Ukraine that are most applicable to the PRC’s goal of strengthening its whole-of-government approach to countering a perceived U.S.-led containment strategy.”