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

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Book chapter

Source Publication

China-U.S. relations transformed : perspectives and strategic interactions

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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.

Additional Information

ISBN of the source publication: 9780415438674



Recommended Citation

Zhang, B. (2008). Nuclear deterrence and the Sino-U.S. strategic relationship. In S. Zhao (Ed.), China-U.S. relations transformed: Perspectives and strategic interactions (pp. 85-102). London: Routledge.

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