For the first time in more than 40 years, China has given the rest of the world a view of its mysterious fleet of nuclear submarines.
Earlier in the week, various Chinese state media outlets ran an article touting the "exceptional" safety record of the subs, noting the "tremendous achievement" of developing such technology that many of the world's superpowers have long established.
"We are China's first nuclear submarine force, and the 42 years since our establishment have witnessed our success in avoiding nuclear accidents," Rear Admiral Gao Feng, commander of one of the People's Liberation Army navy's submarine bases, announced to reporters. State-run China Daily reports that Gao particularly noted the importance of the fleet's supposedly spotless safety record when compared to that of the United States and Russia.
State TV has touted the reveal as part of an apparent effort to boost transparency in the notoriously shrouded country. But some characterize it as a power move as China becomes increasingly confident in its economic and military capabilities.
It should be noted that the submarines revealed this week are not representative of China's latest developments in its nuclear naval arsenal. According to the International Business Times, these subs launched in 1970 and are equipped with short-range missiles. China has in fact made significant strides in the past decades: earlier in the year, a report by the U.S. military's National Air and Space Intelligence Center reported that the modernized arsenal includes "nuclear warheads capable of reaching the United States."
But don't go building bomb shelters in your backyards just yet. According to China Daily's Wang Xiaoxuan, China's improving nuclear capability still can't compete with that of the other major powers.
"The U.S. and Russia have the most advanced nuclear submarines, while the UK and France have the second best; China's nuclear submarine technology lags behind all of them, especially in their information and power systems," Wang writes. "So it is ridiculous to talk an inferior member of the nuclear submarine club being a threat."
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