The overarching question imparting urgency to this exploration is: Can U.S.-Russian contention in cyberspace cause the two nuclear superpowers to stumble into war? In considering this question we were constantly reminded of recent comments by a prominent U.S. arms control expert: At least as dangerous as the risk of an actual cyberattack, he observed, is cyber operations’ “blurring of the line between peace and war.” Or, as Nye wrote, “in the cyber realm, the difference between a weapon and a non-weapon may come down to a single line of code, or simply the intent of a computer program’s user.”
A simplified nuclear exchange model will be developed to evaluate China’s past and current nuclear retaliatory capability against the Soviet Union and the United States. The modeling suggests that according to Western standards, China’s nuclear retaliation has been and remains far from “assured.” This result reflects China’s special nuclear philosophy, which emphasizes the role of nuclear taboo and prioritizes political control over survivability. However, in the face of U.S. advances in the areas of counterforce and missile defense, China probably has to continue to improve its nuclear forces qualitatively and, if necessary, quantitatively, in order to maintain its deterrent level.