China-US rivalry tests MAD theory

Recent revelations of China's expansive nuclear ambitions and pursuit of advanced weapons that can evade missile defences raise fresh doubts about the durability of Mutual Assured Destruction deterrence.

An intensifying China-US rivalry may soon test the limits of deterrence theory.

Since the first atomic detonation in July 1945, military thinkers have struggled to rationalise the use of force when there is a risk of unleashing radioactive consequences. Physicist and Los Alamos Laboratory chief J. Robert Oppenheimer captured the transition to the new era by quoting the Bhagavad Gita: "Now I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds."

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 11, 2021, with the headline 'China-US rivalry tests MAD theory'. Subscribe