Skip to main content

The Minimum Means of Reprisal: China's Search for Security in the Nuclear Age

Back to All Publications

'The Minimum Means of Reprisal: China's Search for Security in the Nuclear Age" is based on the doctoral dissertation that Jeffrey Lewis defended at the University of Maryland in 2004.

Among the five nations authorized under the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty to possess nuclear weapons, China has the smallest nuclear force and maintains the most restrained nuclear posture. In The Minimum Means of Reprisal, Jeffrey Lewis examines patterns in Chinese defense investments, strategic force deployments, and arms control behavior to develop an alternative assessment of China's nuclear forces.

The Minimum Means of Reprisal finds that China's nuclear deployment and arms control patterns stem from the belief that deterrence is relatively unaffected by changes in the size, configuration, and readiness of nuclear forces. As a result, Lewis argues, Chinese policy has tended to sacrifice offensive capability in favor of greater political control and lower economic costs.

The future of cooperative security arrangements in space will depend largely on the U.S.-Chinese relationship. Lewis warns that changes in U.S. defense strategy, including the development of new strategic forces and the weaponization of space, will prevent the United States from reassuring China in the event that its leaders begin to lose confidence in their restrained deterrent. The result may further damage the already weakened arms control regime and increase the threat to the United States and the world. Lewis provides policy guidance for those interested in the U.S.-Chinese security relationship and in global security arrangements more generally.

View All Publications