Author: Dr. James Sundquist (Yale University)
China does not have an overarching deterrence framework. However, it is possible to identify the primary objects of Chinese deterrence and describe the Chinese playbook. China’s core strategic aims consist of deterring 1) a nuclear attack; 2) conventional, space, and cyber-attacks; and 3) outside efforts to encourage secession or political unrest. Nuclear deterrence has traditionally taken the approach that a secure second-strike capability is sufficient to prevent an adversary from threatening first use. This perspective is still dominant, but heightened worries about American brinksmanship and non-nuclear counterforce have prompted a major nuclear modernization campaign. Chinese conventional deterrence is notable for including an explicit role for compellence and a certain degree of optimism that purely military capabilities and resolve can help solve geopolitical problems. Finally, the Chinese government has long feared separatism and popular revolt at least as much as external aggression. In addition to its internal security apparatus, China deters external provocation on these issues through diplomatic and economic means, which make it costly for other countries to recognize Taiwan or support Chinese dissidents.