Avoiding a Cold War with China

Tensions between the United States and China, made worse by mistrust and misunderstandings, work to undermine cooperation on everything from nuclear weapons to space policies.

The United States sees China’s growing economic and military power as a potential threat, both regionally and globally. China sees new U.S. military technologies (such as missile defense), and U.S. steps to strengthen ties with Asian allies, as both a military threat and an attempt at containment.

Left unchecked, growing tensions could spur the buildup of weapons and make conflict more likely, especially in times of crisis.

Combating misunderstandings with accurate information on China's nuclear capabilities and intentions is essential for U.S. security. This includes careful, rigorous scholarship; better translations of Chinese military texts; increased understanding of policy motives and contexts; and a clear technical understanding of China’s military capabilities.

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Averting an arms race in space

U.S. and China flags flying beside one another.

The Cold War and the "space race" went hand in hand. China’s development of space technology has led to U.S. reactions—some based on misperceptions and misunderstanding—that could lead to a space arms race.

Such a response would threaten legitimate uses of space and could spark conflicts on the ground, raising the risk of armed nuclear conflict.

The United States should instead promote cooperation on space science and exploration. This would build trust between the United States and China, and sustain norms against the development, testing, and deployment of space weapons.

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