I believe "official" numbers for Chinese nuclear weapons to be around 300. We are underestimating China no different then how Germany was underestimated before WWII. At the time that Germany invaded France, the French military was considered the strongest military in the world. How quickly France was defeated was shocking and unthinkable before it happened.
China has been preparing for a long time now.
https://www.georgetown.edu/news/gu-stud ... r-tunnels/
https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/na ... story.htmlA group of Georgetown students and their professor have discovered a 3,000-mile-long tunnel system China has built to protect and store its missiles and nuclear weapons.
The Chinese have called it their “Underground Great Wall” — a vast network of tunnels designed to hide their country’s increasingly sophisticated missile and nuclear arsenal.
For the past three years, a small band of obsessively dedicated students at Georgetown University has called it something else: homework.
Led by their hard-charging professor, a former top Pentagon official, they have translated hundreds of documents, combed through satellite imagery, obtained restricted Chinese military documents and waded through hundreds of gigabytes of online data.
The result of their effort? The largest body of public knowledge about thousands of miles of tunnels dug by the Second Artillery Corps, a secretive branch of the Chinese military in charge of protecting and deploying its ballistic missiles and nuclear warheads.
The students worked in their dorms translating military texts. They skipped movie nights for marathon sessions reviewing TV clips of missiles being moved from one tunnel structure to another. While their friends read Shakespeare, they gathered in the library to war-game worst-case scenarios of a Chinese nuclear strike on the United States.
Over time, the team grew from a handful of contributors to roughly two dozen. Most spent their time studying the subterranean activities of the Second Artillery Corps.
While the tunnels’ existence was something of an open secret among the handful of experts studying China’s nuclear arms, almost no papers or public reports on the structures existed.
A bigger Chinese arsenal?
In December 2009, just as the students began making progress, the Chinese military admitted for the first time that the Second Artillery had indeed been building a network of tunnels. According to a report by state-run CCTV, China had more than 3,000 miles of tunnels — roughly the distance between Boston and San Francisco — including deep underground bases that could withstand multiple nuclear attacks.
The news shocked Karber and his team. It confirmed the direction of their research, but it also highlighted how little attention the tunnels were garnering outside East Asia.
The lack of interest, particularly in the U.S. media, demonstrated China’s unique position in the world of nuclear arms.
For decades, the focus has been on the two powers with the largest nuclear stockpiles by far — the United States, with 5,000 warheads available for deployment, and Russia, which has 8,000.
But of the five nuclear weapons states recognized by the Non-Proliferation Treaty, China has been the most secretive. While the United States and Russia are bound by bilateral treaties that require on-site inspections, disclosure of forces and bans on certain missiles, China is not.
The assumption for years has been that the Chinese arsenal is relatively small — anywhere from 80 to 400 warheads.
China has encouraged that perception. As the only one of the five original nuclear states with a no-first-use policy, it insists that it keeps a small stockpile only for “minimum deterrence.”
Given China’s lack of transparency, Karber argues, all the experts have to work with are assumptions, which can often be dead wrong. As an example, Karber often recounts to his students his experience of going to Russia with former defense secretary Frank C. Carlucci to discuss U.S. help in securing the Russian nuclear arsenal.
The United States had offered Russia about 20,000 canisters designed to safeguard warheads — a number based on U.S. estimates at the time.
The generals told Karber they needed 40,000.