Country marks 50th anniversary of first H-bomb test
China's nuclear weapons research and development has attained the world's most advanced level although the country's nuclear weapons stockpile is small, experts said Sunday, one day after the 50th anniversary of the country's first test of a hydrogen bomb.
China is technically advanced in developing new nuclear weapons, as it has full-scale facilities, nuclear weapons development institutions and nuclear reactors, said Song Zhongping, a Beijing-based military expert who had served in the People's Liberation Army (PLA)'s Second Artillery Corps (now the Rocket Force).
China's first hydrogen bomb was tested in the desert of Northwest China's Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region on June 17, 1967. The successful test shook the world as it took only two years and eight months for China to develop a hydrogen bomb after China tested its first atomic bomb in October, 1964.
"But we use nuclear weapons as a deterrant, as we adhere to the no-first-strike strategy, which means the country will not use the weapons unless it is first attacked by an adversary. China has a much smaller number of [nuclear] weapons and spends less compared with the US and Russia," Song said.
"China is still conducting nuclear tests, although it has turned from underground to computer simulation out of consideration for possible environmental pollution and the huge cost," Gui Liming, an expert on China's nuclear safety system at Tsinghua University, told the Global Times, adding that nuclear weapons also cost a lot to maintain.
The design and manufacture of hydrogen bombs fully reflect a country's scientific and technological level, as well as comprehensive national strength, according to the PLA's flagship newspaper, PLA Daily.
Developing a hydrogen bomb requires a high-quality talent pool made up of experts in multiple fields, including nuclear physics, mechanics, optics, material science and computer science. It also needs the backing of strong national power, as research into hydrogen bombs, which requires lots of new technology and equipment, is much more difficult than atomic bombs, the newspaper said.
China's first hydrogen bomb was dropped by a Chinese H-6 bomber, a reconfigured Soviet Union Tu-16 bomber. China has since improved and developed the H-6 bomber and it is still in service. The latest variant of the H-6 bomber, the H-6K, joined China's 70th V-Day celebration parade in 2015, and patrolled islands and reefs in the South China Sea and East China Sea in 2016, news site eastday.com reported.
Chinese media commemorated the 50th bomb test anniversary by interviewing former staff working on the project.
Zuo Wenlai, 80, a former logistics serviceman, recalled his tough working conditions at the Gobi desert in Xinjiang 50 years ago, when he talked to the Anhui-based Hefei Evening News Friday.
"We dug a hole in the ground and pitched a tent to live in, and planted potatoes and qingke barley (a highland barley) for food," he said.
He was kept in the dark about the purpose of his work, and he did not know he had participated in the hydrogen bomb project until he saw a film of the explosion.