If War With the U.S. Comes, What Are the Chinese Military's Strongest Weapons?

The U.S. has the most powerful military in the world, but China is not too far behind. Getty Images

The U.S. has the most powerful military in the world, but China is not too far behind. If the two countries went to war, it would undoubtedly have a devastating impact on the world.

Both countries are nuclear powers and a global ranking of the world's militaries placed the U.S. at number one and China in third place, based on the annual report from Global Firepower Index.

There are currently no signs China and the U.S. will go to war in the near future, though it's a topic often discussed among academics and other members of the foreign policy community. Some military minds have also suggested the probability of such a conflict would be much higher if the U.S. takes military action against North Korea, which borders China and is one of Beijing's closest allies.

That said, any discussions of a war between the U.S. and China are purely hypothetical, but below is an overview of some of the most powerful military assets Beijing could employ if such a conflict came to pass.

Many might point to the sheer size of China's military (nearly 2.3 million active-duty troops) as its greatest strength. But it is also trying to downsize as it focuses more on modernizing its military and has perhaps the most dynamic ballistic missile development program worldwide.

DF-5 Intercontinental Ballistic Missile

The DF-5 intercontinental ballistic missile, which is equipped with a nuclear warhead, has the longest range of any of the missiles in its arsenal at present, according to the Center for Strategic and International Studies. Its range is roughly 7,456 miles, making it capable of hitting targets throughout the U.S. and Western Europe.

Chinese military DF-5B missiles are presented during a military parade in Tiananmen Square in Beijing on September 3, 2015, to mark the 70th anniversary of victory over Japan and the end of World War II. Getty Images

DF-31AG Mobile Intercontinental Ballistic Missile

China unveiled the DF-31AG, an intercontinental ballistic missile capable of being armed with multiple nuclear warheads, at a parade for the 90th anniversary of the founding of the People's Liberation Army in July. It can be mounted on an all-terrain vehicle, making it highly mobile. The missile reportedly has a range of roughly 6,800 miles––putting the U.S. mainland in its sights.

China's new DF-31AG intercontinental missiles make public debut at military parade in Zhurihe base in Inner Mongolia pic.twitter.com/PaTeQp4TPN

— People's Daily, China (@PDChina) July 30, 2017

DF-26 Intermediate-range Ballistic Missile

The DF-26 intermediate-range ballistic missile can be armed with nuclear warheads and has a range of roughly 2,500 miles. It's been nicknamed the "Guam Killer," given that it's capable of easily striking the U.S. territory if launched from mainland China.

#China's new DF-26 antiship missile variant might strike targets as far away as Guam #USCC2015 https://t.co/E8wOBfdcC3

— US-China Commission (@USCC_GOV) November 20, 2015

DF-17 Hypersonic Ballistic Missile

The DF-17, China's new hypersonic ballistic missile, is capable of reaching speeds of up to 7,680 miles per hour. China reportedly tested two of the missiles in November, which traveled approximately 870 miles and passed through the Earth's atmosphere at 10 times the speed of sound. It's designed to fly fast and low in order to avoid detection, meaning U.S. defense missiles could potentially have significant difficulties locating the missile and intercepting it before it reaches its target. The missile, which can carry a nuclear payload, has a maximum range of about 1,500 miles, according to The Diplomat.

JL-2A Submarine-Launched Ballistic Missile

The JL-2A is a submarine-launched ballistic missile armed with a nuclear warhead, and it has an estimated range of 4,500 miles, based on a report from the U.S. military. China currently deploys four Jin-class nuclear ballistic missile submarines each armed with 12 of these missiles, according to the Center for Strategic and International Studies.