战略学(2020版)第八章 战赂威慑
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Science of Military Strategy (2020 Ed.) Chapter 8: Strategic Deterrence 

战略学(2020版)第八章 战赂威慑

A chapter covering “strategic deterrence” from the revised textbook by the PLA’s National Defense University (NDU), which serves as an authoritative study reference for senior PLA officers on military doctrine and strategy. This chapter offers insights into the evolution of PLA missions and thinking about how modern technology, military and dual use capabilities, as well as domestic and international developments have shaped the theory and practice of strategic deterrence.

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A strategic deterrence is an essential part of military strategic planning and guidance, and it is an effective means to maintain national security and development. Strategic deterrence plays an increasingly prominent role with the wide application of high-tech technology in the military field and the development and changes in international war. Under the conditions of the new era, it is necessary to flexibly use strategic deterrence to create a favorable strategic situation, curb armed conflicts and wars, delay the outbreak of wars, prevent the escalation and expansion of wars, avoid or reduce the damages from wars, and safeguard the ever-expanding national security and development interests.


I. Basic Concepts of Strategic Deterrence

第一节 战略威慑的基本概念

Although the idea and practice of strategic deterrence are ancient, its basic concepts were not accurately defined in the long history of mankind. After World War II, with the emergence and development of modern strategic deterrence theory, the types and functions of the defining elements of strategic deterrence have been deeply studied and revealed.


(i) The meaning of strategic deterrence

Strategic deterrence is a kind of military struggle in which the country and the army are forced to concede, compromise or yield to the unbearable consequences by skillfully displaying strength and determination of using force through comprehensive use of powerful military reality to achieve a definite political goal.


In comparison to actual combat, strategic deterrence is less powerful, less costly, and has more room for maneuver. It directly achieves political objectives under certain conditions, and it is an essential way of military struggle and a strategic means of maintaining national security. Strategic deterrence can be implemented in peacetime as well as in times of crisis or war. Strategic deterrence targets the opponent’s psychological, cognitive, and decisionmaking systems. Its operating mechanism is to make the opponent realizes that by taking certain actions, it will incur a significant cost and losses when weighing the gains and losses, beyond its capacity and benefits. The greater the foreseeable cost and loss shown to the other party, the greater its psychological, cognitive, and decisionmaking power and the more effective the deterrence is.


Effective strategic deterrence must possess three basic elements of strength, determination, and information transmission. Strength is the basis of deterrence, deterrence without strength is only a bluff. Strength is divided into hard power and soft power. Hard power includes national population, economic strength, scientific, technological strength, and military strength, where military power is its main body and core. Soft power mainly includes political influence, diplomatic ability, cultural attractiveness, and national cohesion. Determination is essential to the success of deterrence and the lack of determination makes adversaries doubt the validity of deterrence. Therefore, the will to maintain sovereignty and security must be transformed with firm willpower and decisiveness into a determination to use force when necessary. The transmission of deterrence information is to transmit strength and determination to use strength to the opponent. Deterrence is effective when the opponent receives the deterrent message and generates psychological fear and cognitive confusion. Through various ways, the strength and determination to use force should be conveyed to the opponent in a timely, rapid, and accurate manner, so that the deterrent information can be correctly understood by the deterrence target, thus producing the desired deterrence effect.


Whether strategic deterrence work effectively requires meeting two important conditions, that is whether the deterrence target and the deterrence person have the same or similar cognitive logic, for example, both parties hope to avoid war, limit damages, and maintain stability. If the decisionmakers of the deterring target take the risk regardless of the cost where it will fight to the death, then deterrence is not going to work easily. Therefore, it is necessary to carefully study the psychological characteristics and behavioral patterns of the decisionmakers of the opponent and flexibly use deterrence means, and apply targeted comprehensive pressure to enhance the effect of military struggle.


(ii) The types of strategic deterrence

Types of strategic deterrence can be distinguished from different perspectives, by nature of deterrence, where it can be divided into offensive deterrence and defensive deterrence; by the scope of action, it can be divided into comprehensive deterrence and local deterrence; by strength, it can be divided into advance deterrence, balance deterrence and inferior deterrence; by the means of deterrence, it can be divided into nuclear deterrence and conventional deterrence. In addition, there are also some special types of deterrence related to national and military intelligence, such as a deterrence to people’s war. The type of deterrence expands with the development of science and technology, such as spatial deterrence and information deterrence. From the point of view of the vital task of China’s strategic deterrence, emphasis should be placed on nuclear deterrence, conventional deterrence, spatial deterrence, information deterrence, and people’s war deterrence. Although there are certain overlaps between these types of deterrence, they are relatively independent in their application.


(1) Nuclear deterrence


Nuclear deterrence refers to the act of threatening to use nuclear weapons or determine to carry out a nuclear counterattack to shock and deter adversaries, backed by the nuclear force. The essence of nuclear deterrence is to warn the opponent of the ability and determination to use nuclear weapons or carry out nuclear counterattacks, as well as the serious consequences that may arise from such actions, so that the opponent will be forced to obey the deterrent’s will or give up their original attempts by weighing the pros and cons, thus enabling the deterrent to achieve its own political objectives. Nuclear deterrence is based on people’s understanding of the devastating effects of nuclear weapons. In 1945, United States took the lead in successfully developing atomic bombs, and in August of the same year, it carried out the strategic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki of Japan with the atomic bombs that caused unimaginable heavy casualties, destruction, and shocked the whole world. The tremendous destructive effects of nuclear weapons have greatly restricted nuclear war, whilst the deterrent effect of nuclear weapons is increasingly prominent. Hence, the fear of nuclear deterrence emerges accordingly. The application of nuclear deterrence is based on the level of development of the nuclear forces of nuclear powers. Nuclear deterrence is generally divided into three levels: maximum nuclear deterrence – in the case where the deterrent party has the advantage in quantity and quality of nuclear force, it can contain and coerce the adversary through the armed threat of the first large-scale nuclear strike. Second, it relies on a small number of nuclear weapons, threatening to attack the other party’s urban targets. Third, medium-strength nuclear deterrence relies on an ‘effective enough‘ number of nuclear weapons to cause a certain degree of unbearable damage to the other party, to achieve its own deterrence goals, a form of nuclear deterrence between maximum nuclear deterrence and minimum nuclear deterrence. Nuclear deterrence has significant limitations. On the one hand, nuclear weapons are difficult to use in actual warfare because of their enormous destructive potential; on the other hand, the formation of mutual nuclear deterrence exposes countries that implement nuclear deterrence to the risk of nuclear retaliation, which makes nuclear deterrence less credible and less effective in deterring war.

核威慑是指以核力量为后盾,通过威胁使用核武器或决心实施核反击来震撼和遏制对手的威慑行为或状态。核威慑的实质,就是把使用核武器或实施核反击的能力、决心以及采取这种行动可能引起的严重后果预先警示给对方,使其通过利弊得失的权衡而产生畏惧心理,被迫服从威慑者的意志或放弃原先的企图,从而使威慑者达到自已的 政治目的。核威慑是建立在人们对核武器巨大杀伤破坏作用的认识基础上的。1945年、美国率先研制成功原子弹,并于同年8月用原子弹对日本广岛和长崎进行了战略轰炸、导致了令人难以想象的重大伤亡和破坏,震撼了整个世界。核武器的巨大杀伤破坏作用,使核战争受到极大限制,而核武器的威慑作用则日益凸显。于是,核戚慑恩想应运而生。核威慑的运用是以有核国家核力量发展水平为基础的。一般把核威慑分为三个层次: 一是最大限度核威慑。它是在威慑方具有核力量数最和质量优势的情况下,以通过第一次方的武装相威胁、达到遏制与要挟对手的日的。以通过第一次大规模核打击就解除对二是最低限度核威慑。它依靠少量的核武器,以袭击对方城市目标相威胁、给对方构成核威慑。三是中等强度的核威慑。它依托 “足够、有效” 的核打击力量、以给对方造成一定程度且无法承受的破坏相威胁,从而达成自己的威慑目的,是介于最大限度核威慑和最低限度核威慑之间的一种核威慑形式。核威慑存在着很大的局限性。一方面,由于核武器具有巨大的破坏九难以在实战中使用;另一方面,由于相互核威慑局面的形成使实施核威慑的国家也面临核报复的危险,这就使核威慑的可信度降低、遏制战争的作用减弱。

(2) Conventional deterrence


Conventional deterrence is relative to nuclear deterrence and refers to the deterrence carried out by conventional military force as a means of deterrence. Conventional deterrence was originally a basic type of military deterrence. After World War II, with the emergence and development of nuclear weapons, the status and role of nuclear deterrence became prominent, while the status and role of conventional deterrence have declined. Along with the advances of the times, the limitations of nuclear deterrence are increasingly exposed, and the role of conventional deterrence has been reemphasized, in particular, the development of high-tech conventional weapons, which not only reduce the gap between its combat effectiveness and nuclear weapons, but also have higher accuracy and stronger controllability. Conventional deterrence is more controllable and less risky, and generally does not lead to a devastating disaster like a nuclear war, making it a more credible deterrence for political purposes.

常规威慑是相对于核威慑而言的,是指以常规军事力量作为手段进行的威慑。常规威慑原本是军事威慑的基本类型第二次世界大战后,随着核武器的产生利发展,核威慑的地位作用凸显,常规威慑的地位作用相对下降。随着时代发展,核威慑的局限性日益暴露出来,常规威慑的作用重新被重视。特别是高新技术常规武器的发展、不仅使其 作战效能与核武器的差距不断缩小,而且具有更高的准确性利更强的可控性。常规威慑可控性强、风险较小、一般不会导致像核大战那样的毁灭性灾难,使于达成政治目的,成为可信性较强的威慑于段。

(3) Spatial deterrence


Spatial deterrence is a deterrence utilizing space military force. It is the product of the technological development of aerospace and space weapons. Currently, an increasing number of countries are engaged in space activities, the military applications of aerospace technology are quite extensive, and the military competition for space is becoming increasingly fierce. The military functions of space include reconnaissance and visual missile early warning, weapons guidance, meteorological support, surveying, and mapping support, space environment detection, etc. It can provide continuous, real-time, and global positioning, navigation, and timing services for troops of various military arms in joint operations; It can provide communication support for joint operations with a wide coverage area, large capacity, strong anti-interference ability, and good confidentiality performance for joint operations to meet the needs of command, coordination of intelligence and communication security; Offensive weapon systems on space platforms can be used to carry out firepower or electronic attacks on military targets in the atmosphere. It can be seen that space power plays an increasingly prominent role in the war under the conditions of informatization and intelligenzation. The utilization and counter-utilization, destruction, and counter-destruction will have a significant impact on the process and outcome of the war. Spatial deterrence has a few key features: first, it is strategically prominent with a great deterrent effect on the enemy; second, it is highly dependent on technology, especially space technology, and the credibility of deterrence must be based on feasible and reliable space technology; third, the methods of deterrence are flexible. Interference, sabotage, and destruction can be used as a deterrent; fourth, it is restricted by factors such as space regulations, international public opinion, etc. With the development of space technology, whilst some major aerospace power countries are developing artificial satellite, spacecraft, manned space stations, and space shuttle launch rockets at the same time, actively developing space-based weapons to form space forces, the militarization of space, fierce struggle for the right to control the sky is fierce and complicated. Spatial deterrence, this new form of deterrence form will mature and play an increasingly important role.


(4) Information deterrence


Information deterrence relies on the powerful functions of information science and technology to carry out deterrence with the momentum and power of information war. With the rapid development of information technology with computer technology as the core, the process of social informatization has been accelerating. Information technology is widely used in almost every part of society, such as national electric power, communication, finance, transportation, industry, medical care, and military, and the country’s daily life is increasingly dependent on information infrastructure and information networks. The survival of the national information system is directly related to social stability and the order of people’s daily lives and even national crisis. Large-scale information attacks may paralyze social information networks, resulting in chaos in the national economic system and social unrest. Permeability is the main characteristic of information deterrence – information deterrence not only penetrates the military field but also various fields of society such as political, economic, cultural, scientific, and technological, due to its characteristics of substitutability, transmissibility, diffusivity, sharing, predictability, to expand the psychological effect on people. Second, ambiguity. It is difficult to determine the source of information attack under multi-party information deterrent; the information network is accessible in all directions and easily triggers other events, it is easy to expand the object and scope of deterrence with its diversity. Since both soft damages and hard destruction can be used as a means of disrupting the information flow of the other party, hence there are many forms of information deterrence, such as unauthorized access, malicious software, destruction of databases, acquisition of electronic information, electronic attacks, and so on.


(5) People’s war deterrence


Deterrence of people’s war is a type of deterrence that fully demonstrates and displays the great power of people’s war to deter the enemy. After the founding of the People’s Republic of China, China had been facing the threat of large-scale foreign enemy invasion for a long time. Our country is fully prepared to fight the people’s war and deter the invasion by foreign enemies, thus safeguarding national sovereignty and security and create the example of people’s war deterrence. The people’s war deterrence is a self-defensive and righteous deterrence. Only the people’s army that is highly in line with the interests of the people can implement people’s war deterrence. The outcome of the war depends on the nature of the war and the sentiment of the people. The people’s war represents the fundamental interests of most people. It has the political foundation for the mobilization and the participation of the whole nation in the war and can maximize the war potential of the nation and countries. Once the enemy is trapped in the vast ocean of people’s war, it will surely be destroyed. This is the root cause of the powerful deterrent power of people’s wars. In addition to the factor such as political, organizational, leadership, the deterrent power of the people’s war also depends on various factors such as national economy, science, technology, geography, history, and culture. A country with vast territory and resources, a large population, a developed economy, scientific and technological progress, tradition, and experience of people’s war has stronger credibility of people’s war deterrent. Although the world is changing, the basic law of people’s war deterrence has not changed. On the contrary, the development of high-tech technologies represented by information technology and artificial intelligence technology has injected new vigor and vitality into it, making it richer in content, more flexible, and diverse in form.


(iii) The role of strategic deterrence

Strategic deterrence has two basic functions – one to deter the opponent from doing something, the other to coerce the opponent to do what it must do, both of which are in the essence to make the opponent submit to the will of the deterrent. According to the different strengths and targets of the strategic deterrent, it has different effects in different periods and under different circumstances.


In peacetime, strategic deterrence mainly uses the national military power, and with the political, economic, and diplomatic cooperation, influence the development of the situation, postpone, or stop the war. In current conditions, the attrition of even a small-scale local war is enormous. Therefore, it is in the fundamental interests of the country to make full use of strategic deterrence to deter war, maintain national security and stability, and create a favorable internal and external environment for national development. In general, maintaining strategic deterrence in moderation helps prevent the situation from deteriorating. When the strategic situation is severe and there is a danger of war, the use of strategic deterrence may delay the start of the war and create conditions for the country to make other political choices and prepare for war. When the outbreak of war is imminent, the implementation of strategic deterrence may seize the last chance to avoid war, or allow to take the initiative to win the war, especially the first battle, create a favorable military position for entering a state of war.


In wartime, strategic deterrence mainly serves the war, its role is to display military force at critical juncture, or in a small battle to win the war. For example, using ‘surgical’ strikes in the local warfare against the enemy, is another use of strategic deterrence in war. In the case of the strategic balance of power between the two sides, if one side can adopt a correct strategic approach, cleverly play the role of strategic deterrent and make the opponent truly feel that the loss outweighs the continued confrontation, it can shake its determination and will and abandon the attempt to continue the war, thereby breaking the balance of power of war. In a situation where the two sides of a war are not evenly matched, if the stronger side has strong strategic deterrence, a situation of strength against weakness may quickly emerge; conversely, if the weaker side takes strong strategic deterrence measures, a transformation from weakness to strength may also occur.

在战时,战略威慑主要是服务于战争,其作用在于以兵临城下之势示形于敌、或以军事打击显示力量,以小战而屈人之兵、赢得战争胜利。如在局部战争中对敌方实施、”外科手术式“ 打击,实际上就是战略威慑在战争中的一种运用。战争双方是一个矛盾的统一体。在战争双方呈现战略均势的情况下,如果一方能够采取正确的战略方针、巧妙发挥战略威慑的作用,使对方切实感到继续对抗下去得不偿失、就可以动摇其决心和意志、放弃继续进行战争的企图,从而打破战争力量的均势局面。在战争双方呈现非均势的情况下,如果强者的战略威慑得力、就可能很快形成以强遏弱的局面;反之,如果弱者采取了强有力的战略威慑措施、也可能出现由弱到强的转化。

II. China’s Idea of Strategic Deterrence

第二节 中国的战赂威慑思想

In the long history of human society, not only large number of military deterrence practices but also many deterrent ideas still have a strong vitality to this day, such as “using force to prevent war”, “subduing the enemy without fighting” and “attack the enemy without using swords”, etc. However, the theory of deterrence has made great progress and has been widely used. After World War II, based on the damaging power of nuclear weapons with characteristics that can be used to achieve political goals, the United States put forward the theory of modern strategic deterrence. It relied on the strong nuclear force, waving the big stick of nuclear forces to conduct war blackmail, pursue an aggressive expansion policy. The Soviet Union (Russia), the United Kingdom, France, the major countries attached great importance to the issues of strategic deterrence.


Strategic deterrence is another form of military struggle, not a patent of hegemonism. In the practice of military struggles for more than half a century after the founding of the People’s Republic of China, China attaches great importance to the issue of strategic deterrence. It not only conducts a vast number of strategic deterrence activities per the development and changes of security threats and the need of safeguarding national interests, but it also creates the idea of strategic deterrence with Chinese characteristics in practice. China’s strategic deterrence thinking is broad, profound, and unique, which can be summarized in four words: self-defense, limited, flexible, and effective.


Self-defense means insisting on active defense, ‘Do not attack unless attacked. If attacked, actively counterattack’. Deterrence, like war, has two distinct properties, that is the distinction between justice and injustice. Using deterrence to gain hegemony, control other countries, invade and expand is unjust; using deterrence to maintain one’s safety, regional stability, and world peace, is just. There are three fundamental differences between our country’s strategic deterrence and that of the United States. One is that the purpose is different. The purpose of the United States’ use of strategic deterrence is to exert pressure on other countries with powerful military strength, promoting hegemonism and power politics, to serve its global strategy. China does not seek hegemony or aggression, its key to using strategic deterrence lies in curbing foreign aggression, defending China’s sovereignty, security and development interests, and maintaining a peaceful and stable internal and external environment. Second, the different status. The United States regards deterrence as a kind of strategy, namely “deterrence strategy”, that is an essential part of its military strategy. No matter how the government changes or the military strategy changes, the idea of a deterrence strategy based on a strong nuclear force runs and links through the whole process. Although our country also attaches great importance to deterrence, the core of our country’s strategic thinking is active defense, and strategic deterrence is just a means. Third, the difference in methods. U.S. strategic deterrence is based on hegemony and expansion, therefore, its application is obviously dynamic and offensive, which can be best demonstrated by the ‘pre-emptive strike’ strategy proposed and implemented by the United States. Although China’s strategic deterrence also emphasizes striving for the initiative, such initiative is under the overall military and defense strategy. It does not initiate provocation, nor pressure others, but it is forced to be implemented only after being attacked.


Limited refers to the development of limited strategic deterrence forces to achieve limited strategic purposes in accordance with the nature of the country, its comprehensive national power and the basic principles of strategic deterrence. As a large developing socialist country, China cannot and should not engage in an arms race with hegemonic powers. The lesson of the Soviet Union’s unrestrained development of armaments without regard to national strength is extremely profound. Unlike those hegemonic countries, China does not develop a strategic deterrence as a tool to fight for world hegemony, but it is committed to building a reasonable and sufficient strategic force to deter opponents with limited deterrent force and maintain national security.


Flexibility refers to safeguarding national security as a goal, assess the situation despite circumstances, and creatively implement various deterrence methods to maximize the deterrent effect of strategic forces. The flexibility of China’s strategic deterrence application is mainly reflected in three aspects: first, the close combination of principle and flexibility adheres to the basic principle of self-defense and pre-emptive measures, but it does not exclude the flexibility of deterrence application. When national territorial sovereignty is infringed, national unity is challenged, and national development interests are threatened, China has the power to use military means at any time, and can carry out active and effective strategic deterrence to gain a favorable military position. The second is the close integration of military means with political and diplomatic means. Military power is the basic force for implementing strategic deterrence, but it is difficult to obtain the expected deterrent effect by relying on military force alone. Therefore, China’s strategic deterrence emphasizes the flexible use of political and diplomatic means, close cooperation with a strategic deterrence, and strives for a strategic initiative. Third, various means of deterrence are closely integrated. The overall people’s war deterrence and nuclear deterrence are the basic methods of strategic deterrence in China, and the organic combination of the two can produce a tremendous deterrent effect. At the same time, the development and application of diversified strategic deterrence means, will improve the overall effectiveness of deterrence.


Effective, that is, strategic deterrent capable of responding to a wide range of threats and ensuring that the day of defeat is achieved without war. It is important to ensure the effectiveness of deterrence, as our security has long faced threats of different targets and degrees of threat, and to convince any enemy, including strong enemies, that any encroachment or interference with China will be met with due retaliation. This requires that we attach great importance to the issue of deterrence effectiveness in both the construction and employment of our military forces. In force building, to emphasize only the “limited” characteristic would be to fall into one-sidedness; limited refers to quantity, and small quantity is based on reliable quality. Mao Zedong, while talking about nuclear weapons said to have “a little more, a little less”, but especially emphasized the need for “better”. Therefore, while emphasizing that China’s strategic deterrence is “limited”, more emphasis should be placed on its “effective” characteristic, with nuclear force meeting the requirements for effective retaliation and conventional strategic forces meeting the need to safeguard national sovereignty, security, and development interests. In terms of strategic application, to ensure that strategic deterrence is effective, there must be firm determination and will. Effective warfare has three basic elements: first, a reliable strategic force; second, the determination and will to use strategic force when necessary; and third, a rapid and accurate transmission of information so that the adversary has a correct understanding of these two points. This basic principle of deterrence tells us that the effectiveness of deterrence depends on the right determination, strong will and timely and accurate information transmission, given the established force. The use of strategic deterrence in China emphasizes reason, benefit, and discipline, disbelief, fear of pressure, tit-for-tat, determination, and the courage to fight and win. In the decades of struggle after the founding of New China, we have repeatedly proved with facts that the Chinese are true to their word, established the image of deterrence in China, and safeguarded national interests and world peace with credible and effective strategic deterrence.


III. Methods of Strategic Deterrence

第三节 战略威慑的方式

For a strategic deterrence to realize a deterrent effect, it must be demonstrated through strategic deterrent military operations. Strategic deterrent military operations refer to the strategic operation of a country or political group to show force and prepare to use force to force the opponent to submit to its will. It is one of the types of military strategic operations, it is a specific means to convey deterrence information and implement strategic deterrence. Military strategic deterrence focuses on seeking ‘potential’, although there are many different ways, but they all revolve around the importance of ‘potential’.


(i) Create an atmosphere of war

Creating an atmosphere of war refers to the use of multiple means of struggle to create an atmosphere of imminent war to deter opponents. The main methods are as follows: the Party, state and military leaders make statements and declare their determination to fight; the National People’s Congress issues war mobilization orders at an appropriate time; local areas are declared to be in a state of war; troops are deployed and prepared for war; public opinion, psychological and legal wars are conducted; local emergency mobilization, people’s air defense and road protection drills are organized; front-line mass evacuation is organized; public announcements are issued to urge the countries concerned to evacuate their expatriates and office personnel.


(ii) Display of advanced weapons

Weapons with large-scale destructive power, long-range precision strike ability and other special destructive effects, such as nuclear weapons, precision-guided weapons, space weapons, and new concept weapons generate huge destruction when they are in use. Possessing such weapon systems and strike means having the ability to cause great damage to the enemy. Methods such as a military parade, weapons display, weapons testing, live fire, and real explosion can demonstrate the performance and power of advanced weapons so that the opponent realizes that China has advanced means of defense and counterattack and fear China to carry out retaliatory strikes. The display of advanced weapons is not only a general display of military force without specific targets, but also can be implemented purposefully and systematically for specific threat targets. It can be displayed publicly, but also can be conducted behind the scenes, leaving the opponent to speculate; it can only be combined with the demonstration of major military operations such as weapons tests, maximum force deployment military exercises, but also it can be implemented through military and diplomatic activities such as high-level visits and warships visits.


(iii) Conduct military exercises

Military exercises include strategic operational exercises and tactical exercises, and bilateral or multilateral joint military exercises with foreign troops. Military exercises against specific threats are not only effective methods of military training but also an important way to implement strategic deterrence. Large-scale strategic battle exercises can directly produce a strategic deterrence effect. Small and medium-scale tactical exercises can also serve as strategic deterrence roles under certain conditions. Military exercises for deterrence can be conducted publicly or in an undisclosed or semi-public state. The exercise not only demonstrates the Chinese army’s combat capabilities to adversaries, but also causes doubts, making them uncertain about our intentions and making it difficult to determine whether we are conducting routine training, maintaining close diplomatic relations, or taking the opportunity to move into actual combat operations, thereby causing psychological panic and conduct a deterrent effect.


(iv) Adjustment of military deployment

It emphasizes that military deployment is an important part of war preparation, it is also a way of strategic deterrence. When the security threats are increased and crises may be triggered, it is necessary to make appropriate adjustments to military deployment, send a real deterrence signal to the opponent to have the feeling and pressure of the upcoming war. The use of adjusted military deployment to implement strategic deterrence should be a mixture of false and real. The main methods include: military force maneuvering and massing in specific directions; increasing the deployment of new combat vessels such as battlefield tactical missiles, advanced warplanes, aircraft carriers, and other advanced weapons; strategic material forward delivery; implementing large-scale force forward thrust, strategic deployment and even battlefield deployment, and forming an operational posture; land-based, sea-based, or air-based strategic nuclear weapons implementation maneuver, etc.


(v) Improve the combat readiness level

The levels of combat readiness reflect the degree of war readiness. Raising the combat readiness level means an increase in the intensity of war. When there are signs of a major threat, public announcement on the escalation of combat readiness level is made, which is complemented by actions such as adjusting the deployment of military forces, accelerating battlefield construction, strengthening intelligence reconnaissance and patrolling vigilance. If necessary, local mobilization and national defense education will create an atmosphere that if an adversary insists on imposing the option of war, the country will act decisively and not hesitate to fight, creating a pressure that will discourage the enemy and force it to abandon its intended action attempts.


(vi) Implement information attacks

Implementing information attacks refers to the organization of military and local ground information attack forces to attack the enemy’s command, early warning, and air defense and anti-missile systems. The main methods are as follows: using electronic interference drones to implement electromagnetic momentum and feints to create military pressure; using satellite communication interference power to interfere with enemy communications and maritime satellites; using electronic warfare aircraft to interfere with opponent’s early warning detection and navigation radars; using various interfering forces to interfere with enemy early warning aircraft and data chains; using TV interference force to suppress and interfere or replace opponent TV programs; organizing cyber warfare forces, as necessary, to carry out attacks on the networks of potential targets of the enemy.


(vii) Restrictive military operations

Restrictive military operations refer to the adoption of compulsory control measures in designated areas to restrict the space for movement of the opponents and restrict its movement. The main methods are: in the name of military exercises and weapon test launches, delineate exercise areas, test areas, or no-fly zones (no-navigation zones), are demarcated to control and isolate local sea areas and airspace; organize ships and aircraft to carry out oppressive close-in reconnaissance and patrols to interfere with the opponent’s routine military activities; act in the vicinity of the opponent’s sea and air traffic lines and threaten the safety of its routes and waterways. The purpose of restrictive military operations is to create a situation where the opponent’s strength is under pressure resulting in a deterrent effect.


(viii) Cautionary military strike

Cautionary military strikes refer to small-scale attacks against a specific target with a selected small number of troops in response to a serious provocation of the opponent. Its purpose is not to eliminate the opponent’s military power or destroy the opponent’s important targets, but to demonstrate the ability to strike and the determination to strike, if necessary, as well as to enhance the effectiveness of deterrence with the use of small battles. Cautionary military strikes usually select a small number of military and political targets with a clear deterrent effect and are relatively isolated and easy to hit without harming the people or political targets. Strategic and campaign combat missiles or air assault forces can carry out long-range precision strikes, and in certain cases, long-range artillery fire assault or special operations can also be carried out under certain circumstances. Cautionary military strikes are not aimed at war but intend to deter. Therefore, it is necessary to judge the situation correctly, strictly control the means and scale of strikes, and prevent the escalation and expansion of operations from evolving into war.


Different deterrence methods are interconnected and interact with each other and can be used in isolation or combined with two or more methods to form deterrents of different levels and intensities. Therefore, strategic deterrence methods need to be flexibly applied to achieve the desired deterrence effect per different situations such as threat status, threat size, and opponent characteristics.


IV. Guidance on Strategic Deterrence

第四节 战略威慑的指导

The application of strategic deterrence has its characteristics and rules, but it is also affected by uncertainties. There are many contingencies in the control of the military combat body. A strategic deterrence is an important part of military strategy, and its implementation and realization of national interests have an important impact. Therefore, some important principles and requirements need to be applied flexibly in the implementation process.


(i) Focus on realizing comprehensive advantages in full

A strategic deterrence is a comprehensive struggle integrating military, political economy, diplomatic, scientific, technology, and cultural forces. Military forces are the main body of deterrence, and struggles in other fields also have an irreplaceable unique role. It is necessary to strengthen centralized and unified leadership, carry out close coordination and cooperation to form a multi-domain and all-round deterrence posture against the enemy, with the system’s overall superiority to create an atmosphere and strengthen the effect. It is necessary to pay attention to the legal struggle of public opinion and the use of psychological defense, make full use of legal weapons and public opinion tools to serve as a deterrent. Whilst given the international situation and the surrounding environment, carefully plan and study the relations between major powers and various surrounding forces to create a strategic environment that is conducive to oneself and unfavorable to the opponents so as to create favorable external conditions for the implementation of strategic deterrence.


(ii) Flexible choice and use of deterrence segments

Strategic deterrence methods include traditional means such as nuclear deterrence, people’s war deterrence as well as new means such as information deterrence and spatial deterrence. According to the strategic needs, the development of the strategic situation and the characteristics of various deterrence means, the deterrence means that can effectively achieve the strategic objectives should be selected; select different means according to different objects of struggle, especially for the weak links of the strategic system of a strong opponent and the sensitive parts of its psychological and cognitive decision-making system, so to select the means that it regards as daunting and cause the greatest deterrence and containment effect to it; attention should be paid to the comprehensive application of various deterrence means to form an effective system of deterrence means and produce an effect of comprehensive deterrence. We should organically combine nuclear deterrence with a conventional deterrent, people’s war deterrence with a high-tech deterrence, peacetime deterrence with crisis, and wartime deterrence.


(iii) Correctly grasp the timing of deterrence

The timing of strategic deterrence mainly includes: when the enemy has the intention to provoke, when the issue is made, when the enemy adjusts its deployment to make preparations for war, when the enemy provokes armed conflict when a crisis occurs, etc. In the military struggle, we should distinguish the target of deterrence, focus on the development of the situation, and flexibly grasp the enemy’s psychological characteristics and cognitive and decision-making processes. Generally speaking, the best time to use deterrence is when the other side is bursting with strategic trade-offs, comparisons, choices and tests, that is, trying to take some kind of harmful action, but has not yet set the final decision. In this case, if strength and determination are demonstrated to the other party and forces them to realize that taking action will lead to serious consequences, you may make it difficult for them to form the will to act despite the idea of taking risks, or if they do form the will to act, they may falter and hesitate and fail to implement it.


(iv) Seize the right opportunity for deterrent

Deterrence posture is a state created by the use of deterrence most and deterrence means, in which some degree of deterrence and containment can be formed against the other side. Deterrence posture is divided into peacetime, crisis, and wartime. In peacetime, according to the threats to national security, military force construction should be strengthened, military struggle preparations should be promoted in a solid manner, military strength and war potential should be continuously enhanced, as many strategic means as possible should be mastered, an image of deterrence that cannot be insulted should be created, and attempts and actions of the adversary to violate and endanger our interests should be deterred. When a crisis occurs, we should react quickly on the basis of usual preparations, use strategic prepositioned forces and emergency mobile combat forces, demonstrate our military presence and operational capabilities in conflict areas (airspace and sea), deter adversaries from taking actions that worsen the situation, stop war by deterrence, and contain war by containing the crisis. In wartime, the establishment of both can adapt to current operational needs. It is also possible to deter further escalation of the war strategic combat posture, not only to direct combat objects to deter strikes, but also to strong enemy military intervention to form an effective deterrent position, the formation of deterrence in war, war to help deter, deterrence and war and a favorable posture.


(v) Form a deterrent situation at the right time

Transmission of information deterrence refers to clearly informing the opponent of our political purpose, determination, will, strength, preparation, and have a correct understanding of each other. In the transmission of deterrence information, it is necessary to demonstrate the power of punitive retaliatory strikes, point out the serious consequences that the opponent will inevitably lead to if it is willing to take risks, declare determination, and the will to defend our core interests at all costs, show the limit of tolerance level and draw an insurmountable bottom line for the opponent. In addition, it is necessary to put forward the quid pro quo if the opponent changes its wrong position and behavior. Deterrence information transmission should make full use of various exchange and communication methods, which can be communicated with decision-makers of the opponent as well as communicate indirectly through third parties. Under the condition of information and intelligence, media such as radio, broadcasting and television, the internet, and new media are all important means to transmit information.


(vi) Proactive regulation of deterrence actions

Strategic deterrence actions should obey the needs to safeguard national interests, closely coordinate with political and diplomatic struggles, timely regulate the means used, the timing of actions, the deployment of forces, and the transmission of information, especially to evaluate the deterrence effect promptly, grasp the intensity and rhythm of deterrence and enhance deterrence effectiveness. It is necessary to strive to maintain the flexibility, target, and means of strategic deterrent, it should have firmness, yet be flexible, with measurable pressure, controllable, contain appropriate strategic maneuver to cope with various unexpected circumstances. It is necessary to strengthen the use of strategy, with new ideas planning strategic deterrent, assess the situation, grasp the overall situation, seize the key and attack the core and firmly grasp the initiative of the whole process of strategic deterrence operations.


(vii) Carefully plan the transition from deterrence to actual combat

Deterrence and actual combat are two closely related means of military struggle. Deterrence must be backed by actual combat. It is often difficult to achieve strategic objectives with deterrence without actual combat capability and readiness. Deterrence should be carried out just as in actual combat and the degree of combat deterrence should be enhanced. If it is possible to force the opponent to abandon attempts and behaviors that endanger us through deterrence and achieve the purpose of subduing the opponent without fighting, is undoubtedly the ideal result. However, if the opponent insists to continue, which leads to the failure of the deterrence and there is no corresponding actual combat readiness, then one can only swallow the bitter fruits of damaged interests and image and pay a great strategic price. Therefore, deterrents must be fully prepared for actual combat. When a deterrence is believed to be ineffective, it must be timely in transferring to actual combat to achieve established strategic goals through actual combat. The transition from deterrence to actual combat is a qualitative change, which should not be implemented blindly or hastily, but should be carefully planned, strictly controlled, accurately grasped, and timely acted. Deterrence should be organically integrated with actual combat preparation and operations, and deterrence should be integrated into actual war preparation to prepare for war with a deterrent. In the process of carrying out the deterrent, it is necessary to be ready to turn into actual combat at any time, to not only ensure the deterrent effect but also strive for strategic initiative and safeguard national interests with strong actual combat operations when deterrence fails.


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Cite This Page

中国人民解放军国防大学 (National Defense University) (2023). "Science of Military Strategy (2020 Ed.) Chapter 8: Strategic Deterrence  [战略学(2020版)第八章 战赂威慑]". Interpret: China, Original work published August 1, 2020, https://interpret.csis.org/translations/science-of-military-strategy-2020-ed-chapter-8-strategic-deterrence/

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