Sino-American Strategic Restraint in an Age of Vulnerability

By David C. Gompert and Phillip C. Saunders Strategic Forum 273

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Sino-American Strategic Restraint in an Age of Vulnerability
Sino-American Strategic Restraint in an Age of Vulnerability
Strategic Forum 273
Photo By: NDU Press
VIRIN: 180313-D-BD104-011

Key Points

  • Despite their vast power, the United States and China are becoming increasingly and mutually vulnerable to attack in three strategic domains: nuclear, space, and cyberspace. The futility of defense and dim prospects for arms control in these domains will lead both countries to develop strong offensive capabilities, at least to deter the other. 
  • The United States and China should deal with these vulnerabilities by pursuing mutual restraint in the use of strategic offensive capabilities in all three domains, building on a foundation of mutual deterrence based on the threat of retaliation. 
  • A strategic restraint agreement should include reciprocal pledges not to be the first to use nuclear or antisatellite weapons against the other or the first to attack the other’s critical computer networks. These pledges should be reinforced by regular high-level communications about capabilities, doctrines, and plans, as well as concrete confidence-building measures to avoid misperceptions, provide reassurance, and engender trust.

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