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Multidomain Deterrence and Strategic Stability in China

Multidomain Deterrence and Strategic Stability in China
Publisher: SIPRI
SIPRI, Stockholm:
January, 2022

Over the past few years, China has displayed a wide range of advances in military capabilities and infrastructure, including its test of a hypersonic glide vehicle coupled with a fractional orbital bombardment system and evidence of new intercontinental ballistic missile silos. While China and the United States remain at political odds, there are indications that China’s strategies in space, cyberspace and nuclear domains are increasingly converging with those of the USA, as well as Russia. A key question is whether this strategic convergence is a stabilizing or destabilizing phenomenon.

To answer the question, this paper explores the current state of Chinese discussions on multidomain deterrence and strategic stability, with a focus on active defence and proactive defence. It then examines how these concepts are manifesting themselves in China’s postural and technological indicators, including pre-mating of nuclear warheads to delivery platforms, expanded nuclear arsenal size, possible shifts towards launch on warning, integration of dual-capable systems, and advances in machine learning and autonomy. It concludes with a discussion of what these trends mean for future strategic stability talks.


I. Introduction

II. Multidomain strategic stability

III. Active defence and proactive defence

IV. Proactive defence in China’s multidomain deterrence

V. Postures and technologies enabling proactive defence

VI. Conclusions


Dr Lora Saalman is a Senior Researcher within SIPRI’s Armament and Disarmament and Conflict, Peace and Security research areas.