Chinese Evolving Approaches to Nuclear ‘War-Fighting’: An Emerging Security Dilemma?

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


This chapter explores a relatively under-researched discourse that relates to recent indications that Chinese leaders are considering the deployment of nuclear weapons for war-fighting (or ‘victory-denial’) purposes. It argues that the continued lip service paid to passive and static conceptualizations of Chinese thinking on nuclear and conventional deterrence is no longer appropriate. Recent evidence indicates that these postures are far more integrated, flexible, and dynamic than Beijing’s official rhetoric has suggested; over the past decade, a de facto shift toward a limited nuclear war-fighting posture has already taken place, which has prompted a closer alignment of China’s nuclear force posture with its more offensively configured conventional stance. Specifically, as many of the barriers impeding a limited nuclear war-fighting doctrine are removed, the long-standing doctrine–capabilities gap between China’s nuclear capabilities and the aspirations of many Chinese strategists will likely be reconciled. Moreover, this chapter also posits that the ambiguities and opacity associated with Chinese nuclear policies and doctrines reinforced Washington’s reliance upon worst-case scenario capacity-based defense planning to infer Beijing’s (malign) intentions. Finally, it reflects on the implications of an intense security dilemma in the nuclear domain for United States–China strategic stability, United States’ extended deterrence commitments, and the nuclear balance in the Asia-Pacific.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe US-China Military and Defense Relationship during the Obama Presidency
PublisherSpringer International Publishing
ISBN (Electronic)978-3-319-75838-1
ISBN (Print)978-3-319-75837-4
Publication statusPublished - 2018

Publication series

NameNew Security Challenges
PublisherSpringer International Publishing


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