The John Batchelor Show

Monday 29 October 2018

Air Date: 
October 29, 2018

Photo:  Chou En-lai announces the success of China's atomic bomb test, 16 October 1964
中文(繁: 1964年10月16日,周恩來對《東方紅》歌唱團員宣佈中國成功爆炸了第一顆原子彈
Permissions:  This image is now in the public domain in China because its term of copyright has expired. According to copyright laws of the People's Republic of China(with legal jurisdiction in the mainland only, excluding Hong Kong and Macao) and the Republic of China (currently with jurisdiction in Taiwan, the PenghuKinmenMatsu, etc.), all photographs and cinematographic works, and all works whose copyright holder is a juristic person, enter the public domain 50 years after they were first published, or if unpublished 50 years from creation, and all other applicable works enter the public domain 50 years after the death of the creator.
Co-host: Thaddeus McCotter, WJR, the Great Voice of the Great Lakes
Hour One
Monday 29 October  2018 / Hour 1, Block A: Tom Joscelyn, Senior Fellow, Foundation for Defense of Democracies; & Senior Editor for FDD's Long War Journal; and Bill Roggio, Long War Journal and FDD; in re:
Monday 29 October  2018 / Hour 1, Block B: Tom Joscelyn, Long War Journal and FDD; and Bill Roggio, Long War Journal and FDD; in re:
Monday 29 October  2018 / Hour 1, Block C: Gordon Chang, in re:  Chinese president for life Xi said we need take all complex situations into consideration; step up exercises to enhances servicemen’s ability to  fight. . .  Xi’s primary audience is the one at home. . . . Chinese are feeling their oats, but are not yet able to shoot back at the US Navy.  If Xi backs down, he loses power and maybe his life. He’s increased the cost of losing – which he knows – and he’ll take the country over the edge. If he’s going to die, he might as well kill half of humanity.
Foreign Affairs, Caitlin Thomas [article below]*: US Navy is likely to encourage China to go max in any exchange of weapons because we can strike at their nukes and they can’t strike at ours. China will get aggressive when you show strength or wen you don't – it’s the nature of the regime, We can detain China, and hope to deter – but can't deter with weakness, This is why Trump is in such a difficult position now. 
There’s nothing anyone outside can do to re-institutionalize the CCP. The Party has to do that, itself.
We had to confront China over its stealing hundreds of billions of dollars.  Yuan is flirting with 7 to a dollar; in the black market, it's 8 to 1.
Transaction fee today: 5%
China moving from authoritarianism totalitarianism. 
Will China go nuclear? Yes – because it doesn't have the forces that Russia has; an unstable regime and a man making threats against the US by a man who declares himself ruler for life.
Monday 29 October  2018 / Hour 1, Block D:    Bill Gertz, senior editor of the Washington Free Beacon, Thaddeus McCotter of WJR, and Gordon Chang of the Daily Beast, remind us that China compromised every file in OPM (Office of Personnel Management) – names, addresses, credit cards – tens of thousands, incl intelligence officers. The Obama Adm sent letters to tell them to “make adjustments” to all their use of documents. The Chinese took everything.
The 22 million federal records stolen by Chinese are now being used with advanced AI software to conduct major information operations, whether targeting network administrators whom they want to hack further, or elections meddling.  VP spoke of an internal CCP notice on an information warfare campaign in the US keying off the trade war, which they’re clearly engaging in.  Online: ”We must carefully control our propaganda tone, . . . fire precisions strikes, sow discord to make different American groups collapse”  — they’re targeting trade, first.
Important signs that there are struggles within Chinese leadership over how to respond to the trade measures.   Currently perhaps trying to work through Democrats to win.  If Dems win will try to impeach Trump, and will go after him in 202; will go after Chinese businessmen to support them.
The only sensible US response is that Chinese have to be made to pay a price: use US intell to expose corruption, e.g., Guo Wangji in US who has details of Chinese corruption. US intell should be tasked to expose that, show Chinese people how corrupt their govt is.  Would require coordination among several US agencies; possible? I think so.
Hour Two
Monday 29 October  2018 / Hour 2, Block A:  David M Drucker, Washington Examiner, & John Fund, NRO, in re:
Monday 29 October  2018 / Hour 2, Block B:  John Fund, NRO, & David M Drucker, Washington Examiner, in re:
Monday 29 October  2018 / Hour 2, Block C: Malcolm Hoenlein, Conference of Presidents, in re: Malcolm has jut returned from Pittsburgh; the tragedy in still rolling out.  Tree of Life synagogue; with two other temples co-located there. Very many young people, clearly not Jewish, brought flowers, candles food; a remarkable outpouring. Every faith, color, ethnicity.  The ones lost were valuable people; the two brothers were said to be warm, generous, wonderful, thoughtful.  The physician. The 97-year-old Holocaust survivor who brought flowers to the synagogue each weak.
First: people for the first time have come to terms with the fact that anti-Semitism is a real problem in the US; you and I have spoken of this for maybe a decade. Same with the BDS movement.  November 9, 1938, is he anniversary of Kristallnacht. Hatred comes out in every generations; if you don’t stamp it out it metastasizes, grows.  Security in New York?  NYPD has stepped up its efforts all over the city, needs to be first and strongest in the community. So much infrastructure here – schools, temples; we need to work on this.
PLO Central Council met today, voted a nonbinding resolution that Oslo has run its course.  Wants to cut security and economic ties. Should it become binding, it would be dangerous. We've seen this in the past as a bargaining chip.
PM Netanyahu visited Oman most successfully.
Grand Slam judo meet in UAE; the Israeli national anthem was played!
Gaza rockets: one incendiary devoice landed in Jerusalem; two in Gaza, the rest in open areas. Apparently under orders of Iran.  In 1983-4 the attack on the Marine barracks by Soleimani – why isn't he targeted? He’s trying to sabotage the Gaza ceasefire that Egypt is trying to set up.  Whenever a rocket is fired in Gaza , someone has ordered it and paid for it.
Monday 29 October  2018 / Hour 2, Block D: Indiana Hoenlein, Conference of Presidents, in re: Jewish catacombs in northern Rome were found years ago when the Villa [Parlania?] – found below burial grounds from the First and Second Centuries AD, some earlier. Nineteenth-century classical villa, found the underground city of the dead; it was covered, except for occasional looters. “Claudius Shalom Shalom,” even though the lingua franca was Greek.
A menorah . . . displayed on the Arch of Titus where you see slaves taken from Jerusalem to Rome.
Faux Dead Sea Scrolls: five of the sixteen in the collection of the Museum of the Bible in Jerusalem were found to be fake.  3D digital microscopy and other techniques used to verify.  Can go to
Israel Antiquities Authority, Leon Levy Dead Sea Scrolls
Fifteen or so years ago the antiquities market was saturated with scroll fragments; thereafter, people were hornswoggled.
Hour Three
Monday 29 October  2018/ Hour 3, Block A: Henry Sokolski,  Nonproliferation Policy Center, director, & ________, op-ed in Wall Street Journal; in re:  Khashoggi and Saudi Arabia.  . ..  Saudis have clear reasons not to trust the Russians. Chinese are an unknown quantity in this. 
Monday 29 October  2018/ Hour 3, Block B: Simon Constable, in Edinburgh; in re:  Brexit
Monday 29 October  2018/ Hour 3, Block C:    Tzvi Kahn, FDD, in re:   Iran’s 1988 bloodiest atrocity against its own people: coordinated effort to massacre thousands of political opponents. Three-men death panels interviewed people for moments and then would kill them or not. One of those men today presides over a foundation that generates money that helps Iran support terror abroad and repression at home, funded with $100 mil.  He was promoted because of his bloody record.
Brig Gen Hussain Ashtari, in charge of , inter al., cyber. (1 of 2)
Monday 29 October  2018/ Hour 3, Block D:    Tzvi Kahn, FDD, in re:   Iran’s 1988 bloodiest atrocity against its own people: coordinated effort to massacre thousands of political opponents. Three-men death panels interviewed people for moments and then would kill them or not. One of those men today presides over a foundation that generates money that helps Iran support terror abroad and repression at home, funded with $100 mil.  He was promoted because of his bloody record.
Brig Gen Hussain Ashtari, in charge of , inter al., cyber. (2 of 2)
Hour Four
Monday 29 October  2018/ Hour 4, Block A:  New York at War: Four Centuries of Combat, Fear, and Intrigue in Gotham, by Steven H. Jaffe
Monday 29 October  2018/ Hour 4, Block B:  New York at War: Four Centuries of Combat, Fear, and Intrigue in Gotham, by Steven H. Jaffe
Monday 29 October  2018/ Hour 4, Block C:   America's Black Sea Fleet: The U.S. Navy Amidst War and Revolution, 1919-1923, by Robert Shenk
Monday 29 October  2018/ Hour 4, Block D:    America's Black Sea Fleet: The U.S. Navy Amidst War and Revolution, 1919-1923, by Robert Shenk
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See: Foreign Affairs!

COMMENT  November/December 2018 IssueChinaTaiwan

Beijing’s Nuclear Option, Why a U.S.-Chinese War Could Spiral Out of Control
By Caitlin Talmadge
     As China’s power has grown in recent years, so, too, has the risk of war with the United States. Under President Xi Jinping, China has increased its political and economic pressure on Taiwan and built military installations on coral reefs in the South China Sea, fueling Washington’s fears that Chinese expansionism will threaten U.S. allies and influence in the region. U.S. destroyers have transited the Taiwan Strait, to loud protests from Beijing. American policymakers have wondered aloud whether they should send an aircraft carrier through the strait as well. Chinese fighter jets have intercepted U.S. aircraft in the skies above the South China Sea. Meanwhile, U.S. President Donald Trump has brought long-simmering economic disputes to a rolling boil.

A war between the two countries remains unlikely, but the prospect of a military confrontation—resulting, for example, from a Chinese campaign against Taiwan—no longer seems as implausible as it once did. And the odds of such a confrontation going nuclear are higher than most policymakers and analysts think.

Members of China’s strategic com­munity tend to dismiss such concerns. Likewise, U.S. studies of a potential war with China often exclude nuclear weapons from the analysis entirely, treating them as basically irrelevant to the course of a conflict. Asked about the issue in 2015, Dennis Blair, the former commander of U.S. forces in the Indo-Pacific, estimated the likelihood of a U.S.-Chinese nuclear crisis as “somewhere between nil and zero.”

This assurance is misguided. If deployed against China, the Pentagon’s preferred style of conventional warfare would be a potential recipe for nuclear escalation. Since the end of the Cold War, the United States’ signature approach to war has been simple: punch deep into enemy territory in order to rapidly knock out the opponent’s key military assets at minimal cost. But the Pentagon developed this formula in wars against Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, and Serbia, none of which was a nuclear power. 

If deployed against China, the Pentagon’s preferred style of conventional warfare would be a potential recipe for nuclear escalation. 

China, by contrast, not only has nuclear weapons; it has also intermingled them with its conventional military forces, making it difficult to attack one without attacking the other. This means that a major U.S. military campaign targeting China’s conventional forces would likely also threaten its nuclear arsenal. Faced with such a threat, Chinese leaders could decide to use their nuclear weapons while they were still able to.

As U.S. and Chinese leaders navigate a relationship fraught with mutual suspicion, they must come to grips with the fact that a conventional war could skid into a nuclear confrontation. Although this risk is not high in absolute terms, its consequences for the region and the world would be devastating. As long as the United States and China continue to pursue their current grand strategies, the risk is likely to endure. This means that leaders on both sides should dispense with the illusion that they can easily fight a limited war. They should focus instead on managing or resolving the political, economic, and military tensions that might lead to a conflict in the first place.

There are some reasons for optimism. For one, China has long stood out for its nonaggressive nuclear doctrine. After its first nuclear test, in 1964, China largely avoided the Cold War arms race, building a much smaller and simpler nuclear arsenal than its resources would have allowed. Chinese leaders have consistently characterized nuclear weapons as useful only for deterring nuclear aggression and coercion. Historically, this narrow purpose required only a handful of nuclear weapons that could ensure Chinese retaliation in the event of an attack. To this day, China maintains a “no first use” pledge, promising that it will never be the first to use nuclear weapons.

The prospect of a nuclear conflict can also seem like a relic of the Cold War. Back then, the United States and its allies lived in fear of a Warsaw Pact offensive rapidly overrunning Europe. NATO stood ready to use nuclear weapons first to stalemate such an attack. Both Washington and Moscow also consistently worried that their nuclear forces could be taken out in a bolt-from-the-blue nuclear strike by the other side. This mutual fear increased the risk that one superpower might rush to launch in the erroneous belief that it was already under attack. Initially, the danger of unauthorized strikes also loomed large. In the 1950s, lax safety procedures for U.S. nuclear weapons stationed on NATO soil, as well as minimal civilian oversight of U.S. military commanders, raised a serious risk that nuclear escalation could have occurred without explicit orders from the U.S. president.

The good news is that these Cold War worries have little bearing on U.S.-Chinese relations today. Neither country could rapidly overrun the other’s territory in a conventional war. Neither seems worried about a nuclear bolt from the blue. And civilian political control of nuclear weapons is relatively strong in both countries. What remains, in theory, is the comforting logic of mutual deterrence: in a war between two nuclear powers, neither side will launch a nuclear strike for fear that its enemy will respond in kind.

The bad news is that one other trigger remains: a conventional war that threatens China’s nuclear arsenal. Conventional forces can threaten nuclear forces in ways that generate pressures to escalate—especially when ever more capable U.S. conventional forces face adversaries with relatively small and fragile nuclear arsenals, such as China. If U.S. operations endangered or damaged China’s nuclear forces, Chinese leaders might come to think that Washington had aims beyond winning the conventional war—that it might be seeking to disable or destroy China’s nuclear arsenal outright, perhaps as a prelude to regime change. In the fog of war, Beijing might reluctantly conclude that limited nuclear escalation—an initial strike small enough that it could avoid full-scale U.S. retaliation—was a viable option to defend itself.

The most worrisome flash point for a U.S.-Chinese war is Taiwan. Beijing’s long-term objective of reunifying the island with mainland China is clearly in conflict with Washington’s longstanding desire to maintain the status quo in the strait. It is not difficult to imagine how this might lead to war. For example, China could decide that the political or military window for regaining control over the island was closing and launch an attack, using air and naval forces to blockade Taiwanese harbors or bombard the island. Although U.S. law does not require Washington to intervene in such a scenario, the Taiwan Relations Act states that the United States will “consider any effort to determine the future of Taiwan by other than peaceful means, including by boycotts or embargoes, a threat to the peace and security of the Western Pacific area and of grave concern to the United States.” Were Washington to intervene on Taipei’s behalf, the world’s sole superpower and its rising competitor would find themselves in the first great-power war of the twenty-first century.

In the course of such a war, U.S. conventional military operations would likely threaten, disable, or outright eliminate some Chinese nuclear capabilities—whether doing so was Washington’s stated objective or not. In fact, if the United States engaged in the style of warfare it has practiced over the last 30 years, this outcome would be all but guaranteed. 

The most worrisome flash point for a U.S.-Chinese war is Taiwan. 

Consider submarine warfare. China could use its conventionally armed attack submarines to blockade Taiwanese harbors or bomb the island, or to attack U.S. and allied forces in the region.. If that happened, the U.S. Navy would almost certainly undertake an antisubmarine campaign, which would likely threaten China’s “boomers,” the four nuclear-armed ballistic missile submarines that form its naval nuclear deterrent. China’s conventionally armed and nuclear-armed submarines share the same shore-based communications system; a U..S. attack on these transmitters would thus not only disrupt the activities of China’s attack submarine force but also cut off its boomers from contact with Beijing, leaving Chinese leaders unsure of the fate of their naval nuclear force. In addition, nuclear ballistic missile submarines depend on attack submarines for protection, just as lumbering bomber aircraft rely on nimble fighter jets. If the United States started sinking Chinese attack submarines, it would be sinking the very force that protects China’s ballistic missile submarines, leaving the latter dramatically more vulnerable. 

Even more dangerous, U.S. forces hunting Chinese attack submarines could inadvertently sink a Chinese boomer instead. After all, at least some Chinese attack submarines might be escorting ballistic missile submarines, especially in wartime, when China might flush its boomers from their ports and try to send them within range of the continental United States. Since correctly identifying targets remains one of the trickiest challenges of undersea warfare, a U.S. submarine crew might come within shooting range of a Chinese submarine without being sure of its type, especially in a crowded, noisy environment like the Taiwan Strait. Platitudes about caution are easy in peacetime. In wartime, when Chinese attack submarines might already have launched deadly strikes, the U.S. crew might decide to shoot first and ask questions later.

Adding to China’s sense of vulnerability, the small size of its nuclear-armed submarine force means that just two such incidents would eliminate half of its sea-based deterrent. Meanwhile, any Chinese boomers that escaped this fate would likely be cut off from communication with onshore commanders, left without an escort force, and unable to return to destroyed ports. If that happened, China would essentially have no naval nuclear deterrent.

Platitudes about caution are easy in peacetime. In wartime, U.S. forces might decide to shoot first and ask questions later. 

The situation is similar onshore, where any U.S. military campaign would have to contend with China’s growing land-based conventional ballistic missile force. Much of this force is within range of Taiwan, ready to launch ballistic missiles against the island or at any allies coming to its aid. Once again, U.S. victory would hinge on the ability to degrade this conventional ballistic missile force. And once again, it would be virtually impossible to do so while leaving China’s nuclear ballistic missile force unscathed. Chinese conventional and nuclear ballistic missiles are often attached to the same base headquarters, meaning that they likely share transportation and supply networks, patrol routes, and other supporting infrastructure. It is also possible that they share some command-and-control networks, or that the United States would be unable to distinguish between the conventional and nuclear networks even if they were physically separate.

To add to the challenge, some of China’s ballistic missiles can carry either a conventional or a nuclear warhead, and the two versions are virtually indistinguishable to U.S. aerial surveillance. In a war, targeting the conventional variants would likely mean destroying some nuclear ones in the process. Furthermore, sending manned aircraft to attack Chinese missile launch sites and bases would require at least partial control of the airspace over China, which in turn would require weakening Chinese air defenses. But degrading China’s coastal air defense network in order to fight a conventional war would also leave much of its nuclear force without protection.

Once China was under attack, its leaders might come to fear that even intercontinental ballistic missiles located deep in the country’s interior were vulnerable. For years, observers have pointed to the U.S. military’s failed attempts to locate and destroy Iraqi Scud missiles during the 1990–91 Gulf War as evidence that mobile missiles are virtually impervious to attack. Therefore, the thinking goes, China could retain a nuclear deterrent no matter what harm U.S. forces inflicted on its coastal areas. Yet recent research suggests otherwise. Chinese intercontinental ballistic missiles are larger and less mobile than the Iraqi Scuds were, and they are harder to move without detection. The United States is also likely to have been tracking them much more closely in peacetime. As a result, China is unlikely to view a failed Scud hunt in Iraq nearly 30 years ago as reassurance that its residual nuclear force is safe today, especially during an ongoing, high-intensity conventional war.

China’s vehement criticism of a U.S. regional missile defense system designed to guard against a potential North Korean attack already reflects these latent fears. Beijing’s worry is that this system could help Washington block the handful of missiles China might launch in the aftermath of a U.S. attack on its arsenal. That sort of campaign might seem much more plausible in Beijing’s eyes if a conventional war had already begun to seriously undermine other parts of China’s nuclear deterrent. It does not help that China’s real-time awareness of the state of its forces would probably be limited, since blinding the adversary is a standard part of the U.S. military playbook.

Put simply, the favored U.S. strategy to ensure a conventional victory would likely endanger much of China’s nuclear arsenal in the process, at sea and on land. Whether the United States actually intended to target all of China’s nuclear weapons would be incidental. All that would matter is that Chinese leaders would consider them threatened.

At that point, the question becomes, How will China react? Will it practice restraint and uphold the “no first use” pledge once its nuclear forces appear to be under attack? Or will it use those weapons while it still can, gambling that limited escalation will either halt the U.S. campaign or intimidate Washington into backing down?

Chinese writings and statements remain deliberately ambiguous on this point. It is unclear which exact set of capabilities China considers part of its core nuclear deterrent and which it considers less crucial. For example, if China already recognizes that its sea-based nuclear deterrent is relatively small and weak, then losing some of its ballistic missile submarines in a war might not prompt any radical discontinuity in its calculus.

The danger lies in wartime developments that could shift China’s assumptions about U.S. intentions. If Beijing interprets the erosion of its sea- and land-based nuclear forces as a deliberate effort to destroy its nuclear deterrent, or perhaps even as a prelude to a nuclear attack, it might see limited nuclear escalation as a way to force an end to the conflict. For example, China could use nuclear weapons to instantaneously destroy the U.S. air bases that posed the biggest threat to its arsenal. It could also launch a nuclear strike with no direct military purpose—on an unpopulated area or at sea—as a way to signal that the United States had crossed a redline.

If such escalation appears far-fetched, China’s history suggests otherwise. In 1969, similar dynamics brought China to the brink of nuclear war with the Soviet Union. In early March of that year, Chinese troops ambushed Soviet guards amid rising tensions over a disputed border area. Less than two weeks later, the two countries were fighting an undeclared border war with heavy artillery and aircraft. The conflict quickly escalated beyond what Chinese leaders had expected, and before the end of March, Moscow was making thinly veiled nuclear threats to pressure China to back down.

If nuclear escalation appears far-fetched, China’s history suggests otherwise. 

Chinese leaders initially dismissed these warnings, only to radically upgrade their threat assessment once they learned that the Soviets had privately discussed nuclear attack plans with other countries. Moscow never intended to follow through on its nuclear threat, archives would later reveal, but Chinese leaders believed otherwise. On three separate occasions, they were convinced that a Soviet nuclear attack was imminent. Once, when Moscow sent representatives to talks in Beijing, China suspected that the plane transporting the delegation was in fact carrying nuclear weapons. Increasingly fearful, China test-fired a thermonuclear weapon in the Lop Nur desert and put its rudimentary nuclear forces on alert—a dangerous step in itself, as it increased the risk of an unauthorized or accidental launch. Only after numerous preparations for Soviet nuclear attacks that never came did Beijing finally agree to negotiations. 

China is a different country today than it was in the time of Mao Zedong, but the 1969 conflict offers important lessons. China started a war in which it believed nuclear weapons would be irrelevant, even though the Soviet arsenal was several orders of magnitude larger than China’s, just as the U.S. arsenal dwarfs China’s today. Once the conventional war did not go as planned, the Chinese reversed their assessment of the possibility of a nuclear attack to a degree bordering on paranoia. Most worrying, China signaled that it was actually considering using its nuclear weapons, even though it had to expect devastating retaliation. Ambiguous wartime information and worst-case thinking led it to take nuclear risks it would have considered unthinkable only months earlier. This pattern could unfold again today.

Both the United States and China can take some basic measures to reduce these dangers. More extensive dialogue and exchange—formal and informal, high level and working level, military and political—could help build relationships that might allow for backchannel de-escalation during a conflict. The two countries already have a formal military hot line in place, although it does not connect political leaders. A dedicated and tested infrastructure for senior military and political leaders to reliably and easily communicate during wartime would provide at least one off-ramp in the event of a crisis. 

But better communication can only do so much for a problem that ultimately stems from military doctrine and grand strategy. Given that the United States’ standard wartime playbook is likely to back China into a nuclear corner, it would be logical for Washington to consider alternative strategies that would leave China’s nuclear capabilities untouched. For example, some analysts have proposed coercing China through a distant naval blockade, and others have suggested confining any U.S. campaign to air and naval operations off China’s coast. The goal in both cases would be to avoid attacks on the Chinese mainland, where the bulk of Chinese nuclear forces reside.

The problem with these alternatives is that the mainland is also where the bulk of Chinese conventional capabilities are located. The United States is unlikely to voluntarily leave these capabilities intact, given its predilection for reducing its own casualties and rapidly destroying enemy forces. If China is using its mainland bases to lob ballistic missiles at U.S. troops and allies, it is hard to imagine a U.S. president ordering the military to hold back in the interest of de-escalation. U.S. allies are particularly unlikely to accept a cautious approach, as they will be more exposed to Chinese military power the longer it is left intact. No one wants a U.S.-Chinese war to go nuclear, but a U.S. campaign that avoids escalation while letting China’s conventional forces turn Taiwan—not to mention Japan or South Korea—into a smoking ruin would not seem like much of a victory either.

Of course, Beijing could also take steps to ameliorate the problem, but this is just as unlikely. China has chosen to mount both conventional and nuclear warheads on the same missiles and to attach both conventional and nuclear launch brigades to the same bases. It likely sees some strategic advantage in these linkages. Precisely because these entanglements raise the prospect of nuclear escalation, Beijing may believe that they contribute to deterrence—that they will make the United States less likely to go to war in the first place. 

But just as China benefits if the United States believes there is no safe way to fight a war, the United States benefits if China believes that war would result not only in China’s conventional defeat but also in its nuclear disarmament. In fact, the United States might believe that this fear could give it greater leverage during a conflict and perhaps deter China from starting one at all.

In short, neither side may see much value in peacetime reassurance. Quite the opposite: they may be courting instability. If this is the case, however, then U.S.. and Chinese leaders should recognize the tradeoffs inherent in their chosen policies. The threat of escalation may make war less likely, but it also makes war radically more dangerous if it does break out. This sobering reality should encourage leaders on both sides to find ways of resolving political, economic, and military disputes without resorting to a war that could rapidly turn catastrophic for the region and the world.
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