Tailoring Deterrence for China in Space
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The space-based capabilities of the United States have become integral to economic prosperity, to the defense of both the United States and its allies across all domains, and to facilitating cross-domain joint military operations. The U.S. government thus views the protection of these capabilities and the deterrence of any activity that could degrade them as vital to national security. Concurrently, China regards space capabilities as both a key enabler in terrestrial conflict and a means of bolstering its overall strength, and views United States activity in space as an obstacle to these goals. Accordingly, China may be motivated to exploit any evident U.S. vulnerabilities in the space domain to further its own objectives. Deterring China in space is therefore a priority for the United States Department of Defense and its allies and partners.
The authors of this report consider deterrence concepts and examine how a deterrence strategy could be tailored to recognize the unique characteristics of the space domain and the particular objectives of China in space. To accomplish this, they review literature on classical deterrence theory and identify some key features that are particularly relevant to deterrence in the space domain. They then build a foundation for tailoring deterrence for China in space by examining Beijing's goals and approach to space deterrence as stated in openly available Chinese primary-source materials and identifying the implications of these findings for the United States and its allies and partners in the Indo-Pacific.