Political Obstacles in the U.S.-China Nuclear Relationship | 2022 | Events

Political Obstacles in the U.S.-China Nuclear Relationship
Tong Zhao
Tong Zhao
Carnegie Endowment for International Peace
December 7, 2022


Evidence shows that the main goal of China's nuclear weapons today is no longer only to maintain nuclear-level stability with the United States but also to help achieve U.S.-China political stability. The new goal is broader and more ambiguous than the previous one, and creates new challenges for bilateral efforts to contain the risk of arms race and nuclear conflict. Technical-level factors can no longer fully explain the speed and scale of China's current nuclear expansion and future efforts to maintain nuclear stability between Washington and Beijing may have to address the underlying political disagreements. This presentation analyzes the growing political obstacles that drive the U.S.-China nuclear escalation and offers thoughts on potential mitigating measures.


Tong Zhao is a senior fellow in the Nuclear Policy Program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, as well as a visiting research scholar at Princeton University's Science and Global Security Program. His research focuses on strategic security issues, such as nuclear weapons policy, deterrence, arms control, nonproliferation, missile defense, hypersonic weapons, and China's security and foreign policy. He serves on the board of directors of the Asia-Pacific Leadership Network for Nuclear Non-Proliferation and Disarmament and on the advisory board of the Missile Dialogue Initiative. Zhao is also an associate editor of Science & Global Security and is a member of the International Panel on Fissile Materials. Previously he was a Stanton Nuclear Security Fellow at Harvard University, a nonresident WSD-Handa Fellow at Pacific Forum, and worked for the Office of Foreign Affairs of the People's Government of Beijing Municipality.