Journal Article - Quarterly Journal: International Security

Assessing China-U.S. Inadvertent Nuclear Escalation

| Winter 2021/22


The risk of a major China-U.S. conventional war inadvertently escalating to a nuclear level is extremely low. Detailed analysis of three potential mechanisms of China-U.S. inadvertent escalation—use-it-or-lose-it, unauthorized/accidental, and damage limitation—situated within both the survivability of China’s nuclear forces and China’s nuclear command, control, and communication (NC3) system supports this conclusion. To keep the risk of inadvertent escalation low, both sides must take appropriate precautions and exercise self-restraint in their planning and operations.

For more information on this publication: Belfer Communications Office
For Academic Citation:
Wu Riqiang, "Assessing China-U.S. Inadvertent Nuclear Escalation," International Security, Vol. 46, No. 3 (Winter 2021/22), pp. 128–162,

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