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Joshua Rovner, "The meaning of China’s nuclear modernization"

Josh RovnerWill China’s nuclear modernization threaten U.S. security? Will it destabilize East Asia, creating new strategic problems for U.S. allies and partners? And will it make conventional war more likely by giving China the confidence to act under the cover of advanced nuclear weapons? Despite the centrality of China in debates over contemporary strategy, there is no consensus answer to these questions.

Professor Joshua Rovner’s new article in the Journal of Strategic Studies, co-authored with Caitlin Talmadge (Georgetown University), surveys U.S perspectives on the meaning of China’s nuclear modernization. It describes three competing interpretations, each reflecting a different theory of nuclear strategy: the Nuclear Revolution; Nuclear Superiority; and the Stability- Instability Paradox. Rovner and Talmadge describe the theoretical logic and empirical evidence in support of each claim and derive future indicators that could help resolve the debate over China’s intentions as more evidence becomes available. This exercise also reveals some counterintuitive views about China’s nuclear efforts and the prospects for conventional war. The conclusion discusses the implications for theory and policy.

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