THE THREAT OF CHINA’S 1,000 NUCLEAR WARHEADS
President Xi Jinping is taking the next sure step toward becoming another Mao, another lifetime emperor. The 6th plenum of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) opened in Beijing on November 8, slated to adopt Xi’s “historical resolution”—only the third of its kind in the party’s 100-year history—on the last day of the four-day session.
Xi’s resolution, entitled “Resolution of the CCP Central Committee on the Major Achievements and Historical Experiences of the Party’s Central Struggle,” will follow Mao Zedong’s “Resolution on Certain Questions in the History of Our Party” (April 1945) and Deng Xiaoping’s “Resolution on Certain Questions in the History of Our Party since the Founding of the People’s Republic of China” (June 1983). Mao and Deng used their resolutions to clarify the correctness of their political agendas, enhance their authority, and solidify their power bases. Xi is expected to use his resolution to match the power Mao and Deng once held, then strive further to open the way for absolute authority far surpassing what even those two leaders commanded.
Establishing absolute authority is no easy task, however. To convince 1.4 billion Chinese to support his ambitions, Xi must realize a reunification with Taiwan, a great achievement which even Mao failed to achieve. For that purpose, Xi has steadily been reinforcing China’s massive military build-up begun in 1989. He has not counted out the use of arms for the coveted reunification while building a huge military force. Xi has simultaneously been preparing to resort to various other means of controlling Taiwan, including economic pressure, cyberattacks, media manipulation, dissemination of fake news, and planting operatives.
Although aggressive foreign policies likely will raise nationalistic sentiment and enhance his leadership, Xi knows that they themselves will not be enough, being well versed in the history of China, which has been marked by generations of dynasties collapsing under the weight of people’s uprisings. Xi has been going all out to put thoroughly in place an absolute “cult of Xi” around him, afraid that nationalism could easily transform itself into people’s dissatisfaction with the government, leading to a massive uprising against the Chinese government.
On August 24 the Chinese Ministry of Education issued new guidelines under which, starting in September, students’ minds would be “‘armed’ with Xi Jinping’s thought on Socialism with Chinese characteristics.” Elementary school pupils are to be taught that Xi is the “guide” for the entire CCP and the Chinese people, whom they must affectionately call “Grandpa Xi.” Under the guidelines, all adults are also expected to revere the CCP as the only authentic entity to guide the people, with enterprises being told to be “one in body and soul” with the CCP.
The dogmatic indoctrination of its 1.4 million population by the CCP is closely tied with China’s foreign and security policies, enabling Beijing to craftily utilize its economic and military power in a “carrot and stick” strategy.
Japan Likely to Suffer Great Damage
China spends more than four times as much as Japan on its military and the gap is widening. Taiwan and Japan are now faced with an existential threat from China in the East China Sea. Amid this heightening tension, a large formation of Chinese military aircraft intruded into Taiwan’s air defense identification zone (ADIZ) over the Strait of Taiwan on October 1. As of October 5, a total of 150 Chinese fighters and bombers had flown into the zone.
Should there be a conflict in Taiwan as a result of China’s adventurism, Japan would very likely suffer great damage. But Japan has not been ignoring the situation. To cope with the Chinese threat, Japan has teamed up with a number of nations to establish various frameworks for cooperation. For example, six nations—including Britain, Canada, the Netherlands, New Zealand, and the US—conducted their first joint maneuvers on October 2 in the waters to the southwest of Okinawa to coincide with the intrusion of Taiwan’s ADIZ by the Chinese warplanes.
Four aircraft carriers representing three nations—the USS Ronald Reagan and the USS Carl Vinson heading two US Navy strike groups, HMS Queen Elizabeth heading the Royal Navy’s Carrier Strike Group—and Japan’s light carrier Ise—made up the bulk of the flotilla during the two-day joint maneuvers. Altogether 17 warships, including some from Canada, the Netherlands, and New Zealand, participated, upholding the banner of a “Free and Open Indo-Pacific.”
China must have been grossly displeased with this show of solidarity by these nations. In a gesture obviously in response to the maneuvers, Xi Jinping urgently called a meeting of the CCP’s Central Military Commission, directing that pressure be intensified on Taiwan promptly. Xi’s instructions are said to be behind the largest ever number of Chinese warplanes trespassing Taiwan’s ADIZ on October 5.
One must pay special attention to the formation of the Chinese aircraft involved in the latest intrusion. The intent of the Chinese operation becomes evident by knowing what types of warplanes were involved. Before this latest incident, the majority of Chinese warplanes that intruded into the ADIZ had been fighters. In addition to fighters and bombers, the Chinese aircraft that crossed into the Taiwanese ADIZ this time were those that ordinarily support an actual battle in a war, including AWACS (airborne early warning and control) aircraft, electronic reconnaissance aircraft, data-collecting aircraft, electronic warfare aircraft, and reconnaissance aircraft. (Rira Monma, head of Regional Research Section, National Institute for Defense Studies, the Ministry of Defense: Toa Monthly, Kanzankai Foundation, Tokyo; November 2021).
A formation made up of just fighters and bombers is not pragmatic. Bombers always become targets of enemy attacks in real combat and must necessarily be escorted by fighters. Also, in order to win a modern air war, a variety of aircraft supporting an operation are indispensable, including those with early warning and control systems designed to disrupt communication or enable the efficient utilization of fighters.
In a nutshell, China deployed the formation over the Strait of Taiwan with all the assumptions of a real war. Meanwhile, our side, including the US and Japan, has been meticulously undergoing joint drills to reinforce deterrence against China. But China appears to remain thoroughly bullish.
China Monitors Entire Globe via Satellites
On November 3 the US Department of Defense released a 2021 report: “Military and Security Developments Involving the People’s Republic of China,” predicting that China will likely have 1,000 operational nuclear warheads by 2030. At present, Russia is said to have 6,255, the US 5,550, and China 350. Against this backdrop, we must know what the figure 1,000 would mean to China. Fumio Ota, a military expert and planning committee member of the Japan Institute for National Fundamentals (JINF), a privately financed think tank I head in Tokyo, had this to say:
“I believe China has switched its ‘countervalue’ strategy to a ‘counterforce’ strategy.”
In military doctrine, explains Ota, “countervalue” means (to China in this case) launching nuclear attacks on America’s assets—which are of value but not actually a military threat, including big cities like New York, Washington, or Chicago—to create a situation in which America is compelled to abandon its war effort. Meanwhile, “counterforce” refers to China’s targeting of America’s military forces and facilities, such as its ICBM storage silos. China hopes to be able to strike its targets with greater precision while minimizing civilian casualties, thus disarming criticism from the international community.
China managed last June to complete its navigation satellite system Beidou, significantly improving the precision of its missile attacks. The US keeps its ICBMs in store in numerous silos across the country. China needs enough nuclear weapons to to attack each of these dispersed sites. That is why it is preparing to stockpile 1,000 nuclear warheads by 2030, Ota explained.
Japan, the US and Europe will suffer a great deal should China match or surpass the US in nuclear capability and become a threat as never before. The US could even be compelled to face a worst-case scenario under which it is forced to face off against both China and Russia simultaneously. In that instance, Japan will confront a situation far more severe than anyone could ever imagine.
In order to avoid being driven into a corner, we must put our heads together to the best of our ability at this juncture to reverse the tide. Reinforcing Japan’s military capabilities at all costs should be the first step. Next, cooperation between the US and Japan must be dramatically strengthened in order to safeguard the security of Okinawa and Taiwan. Medium-range nuclear ballistic missiles must then be deployed along the “first island chain” in the western Pacific. We must also promptly foster a discussion about scrapping one of Japan’s “three non-nuclear principles”—not allowing the entry of nuclear weapons into the country—in order to allow US forces aircraft to deliver nuclear warheads to our islands.
(Translated from “Renaissance Japan” column no. 975 in the November 18, 2021, issue of The Weekly Shincho)