Nuclear deterrence and the Sino-U.S. strategic relationship

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The rise of China has brought the nuclear issue to the center stage of Sino-U.S. relations. China has been pursuing a systematic modernization of its strategic nuclear forces that will lead to a secure second-strike capability versus the U.S.A. in the next 10 to 15 years. This new capability will for the first time establish a true mutual deterrence between the two countries, with important strategic consequences. Although the emerging Chinese nuclear capability may generate additional potential for bilateral competition, increased mutual vulnerability may also lend dynamics for greater strategic cooperation. Therefore, a study of the rise of China and its impact on the future direction of Sino- U.S. relations cannot be complete without examining the rise of Chinese nuclear power. As during the Cold War, nuclear mutual deterrence incorporates both competition and cooperation in great power relationships. On the one hand, nuclear deterrence reflects great powers’ inherent mutual fear of each other. The resulting nuclear arms race can contribute to worsening of the security dilemma in their strategic relationship. At the same time, however, nuclear mutual deterrence provides the foundation for cooperation between great powers. A shared sense of mutual vulnerability can lead to increased strategic cooperation. Consequently, nuclear mutual deterrence became a critical stabilizing factor in the superpower relations.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationChina-U.S. relations transformed : perspectives and strategic interactions
Subtitle of host publicationPerspectives and Strategic Interactions
PublisherRoutledge Taylor & Francis
Number of pages18
ISBN (Electronic)9781134071098
ISBN (Print)0203934784, 9780203934784
Publication statusPublished - 19 Dec 2007

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2008 Selection and editorial matter, Suisheng Zhao; individual chapters, the contributors. All rights reserved.


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