This, at least, is the insistent suggestion of Hu Xijin, chief editor of The Global Times:
… China’s nuclear deterrent is an ambiguous strategy and I should not spell out how many nuclear weapons China needs. In fact, over 1,000 nuclear warheads and at least 100 DF-41 ICBMs that I mentioned are not exact number, but the concept of magnitude. … China is already defined by the US as a major strategic competitor. If the US continues to believe with certainty that China has only a few hundred nuclear warheads, it will be dangerous for China.
Here’s a Twitter thread on this:
1) Hu stimulated the largest-scale public debate in China's history about its nuclear policy. Among the general public, he received massive support. Not a surprise, given the overwhelming public concern of US hostility. Expert community is more skeptical, but no consensus view.
— Tong ZHAO (@zhaot2005) May 12, 2020
The Global Times represents the more nationalistic faction of the CPC to the world’s Anglophone audience, and it would be strange if it hasn’t been gaining ascendancy within the past few months.
This isn’t just some blowhard ranting away, but a trial balloon at the very least.
Of course, there are theories that China already has nuclear parity with the US/Russia (a 6,000 km tunnel/bunker system seems like overkill for the modest arsenal it claims to have). If so this would be a simple matter of progressively unveiling existing warhead stocks.
Otherwise, a rapidly expansion in nuclear weaponry wouldn’t be difficult. The US was adding thousands of warheads to its arsenal throughout the 1950s. They are not extremely complex or expensive items for a modern industrial economy.
I agree with Hu Xijin that it makes sense.
First, it is more in line with the scale and grandeur of Chinese civilization, which is progressively doing away with modest goals like quiet rise and moderately prosperous society by 2050 in favor of loftier global ambitions.
Second, with the increasingly irrational behavior of the US, depriving their technically unsophisticated policy-making elites of any delusions that they might have about “nuclear primary” and the feasibility of a “disarming strike” is a very reasonable goal.
That said, it will become increasingly vital for all future US-Russian nuclear weapons control discussions and agreements to also cover China.