(GPA) Beijing – In a rare move, Chinese media publicly announced the movement of several nuclear missiles to the northeastern most region of Heilongjiang.
On Tuesday the English language Chinese media outlet Global Times, typically used to test the waters for the Communist Party’s politics, released photos of Chinese intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) allegedly being moved into the Heilongjiang region. The site claimed that the pictures had been circulating on Chinese sites for several days before it came to their attention.
The missiles are believed to be the previously classified Dongfeng-41, a “nuclear solid fuel road mobile” ICBM that allegedly has the longest range of any nuclear warheads in the Chinese arsenal. China has had missiles capable of reaching the US since the 1980s (the Dongfeng-5) but the suspected range of the new warheads could cover almost the entire globe except for South America.
As stated above, China is usually very secretive about the capabilities and, even more so, the location of their nuclear warheads. It’s this fact that makes this move seem much more deliberate since instead of using the massive rural roadway system, China chose to roll the missile trucks right through the city of Daqing, populated by nearly three million people.
The move of ICBMs contradicts statements made by Chinese President Xi Jinping only a week ago, in front of the United Nations in Geneva following the Davos Economic Forum. At the UN, Xi denounced the global arms race, saying “Nuclear weapons should be completely prohibited and destroyed over time to make the world free of nuclear weapons.” Xi also said, in what was probably a nod to incoming President Donald Trump, that “We should reject dominance by just one or several countries…major powers should respect each other’s core interests.”
It’s probably safe to assume that a lot of what China is doing is posturing in preparation for whatever may happen under President Trump. This of course makes sense, since Trump has talked tough about China in every way imaginable, from the disputes in the South China Sea to “stealing American jobs” and even accusing the Chinese of somehow manufacturing the “hoax” of global warming to hurt US business.
All these reasons are why it should come as no surprise that China is stepping up their sabre rattling, the Global Times piece even said in its title that the Dongfeng-41 will “bring China more respect.” The editorial went on to discuss some of Trump’s controversial positions, such as calling “for a nuclear arms build-up many times.” They also said that since “Even Washington feels that its naval forces and nuclear strength are lacking, so how can China be content with its current nuclear strength when it is viewed by the US as its biggest potential opponent?”
In the eyes of several analysts, Trump seems on the verge of starting a new Cold War with China. The problem is, a lot of those same analysts feel it may not be one he can win. China is already reshaping relations with countries in the “global south” as well as their pacific rim neighbors such as the Philippines. Following the death of the TPP, China has also made moves to play a larger role in influencing trade in the Pacific region.
If Americans think Trump is the revival of their idealized version of Ronald Reagan, they also seem to think the People’s Republic of China is the new Soviet Union. The problem with this thinking is that the advancements made by China since the end of the Cold War are incomprehensible in that frame of mind. China has much more potential as the next global superpower and Donald Trump should tread carefully if he really wants to keep “America first.”
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James Carey is an organizer based in Detroit, Michigan, founder of Geopolitics Alert, and an experienced analyst on Middle Eastern affairs with a particular focus on Turkey. He also covers topics ranging from Latin America and Asia to Europe. You can also hear James in his weekly podcast; The Left is Dead which he co-hosts with investigative journalist Jake Anderson.