The US-China nuclear relationship is growing increasingly complex. In recent years, Beijing has continued to modernise and diversify its nuclear arsenal and Washington has made changes to its nuclear policy that could reinforce these trends. While there is still the relatively low risk of the use of nuclear weapons during a conflict between the two, that risk is rising as political tensions increase.
Australia’s interests would be best served by an allied military strategy for balancing China that emphasises conventional capabilities, rather than relying on US nuclear weapons to deter the unlikely prospect of a first-use nuclear attack by China.
To discuss these issues, the USSC hosted an event to launch Managing US-China nuclear risks: A guide for Australia, featuring its author, Fiona Cunningham, United States Studies Centre Non-Resident Fellow and Assistant Professor of Political Science and International Affairs at George Washington University; Euan Graham, Shangri-La Dialogue Senior Fellow for Asia-Pacific Security at the International Institute for Strategic Studies, David Santoro, Vice President and Director for Nuclear Policy Programs at Pacific Forum and Brendan Thomas-Noone, Research Fellow in the Foreign Policy and Defence Program at United States Studies Centre.
Dr Fiona Cunningham is a Non-Resident Fellow in the Foreign Policy and Defence Program at the United States Studies Centre and an Assistant Professor of Political Science and International Affairs at the George Washington University. She is a Stanton Nuclear Security Fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in 2020-21.
Dr Euan Graham is a Shangri-La Dialogue Senior Fellow for Asia-Pacific Security at the International Institute for Strategic Studies. He was previously Executive Director of La Trobe Asia, at La Trobe University, in Melbourne, Between 2015 and 2018, he was Director of the Lowy Institute’s International Security Programme, in Sydney. Euan has worked previously in Singapore, as a Senior Fellow with the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies, where he specialised in maritime affairs. Before that, he served with the UK Government for seven years as a research analyst in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.
Dr David Santoro is Vice President and Director for Nuclear Policy Programs at Pacific Forum. He specialises in strategic and deterrence issues, as well as nonproliferation and nuclear security. He’s currently completing an edited volume on the US-China strategic nuclear relationship and the impact of the multipolar context (Lynne Rienner, 2021).
Brendan Thomas-Noone is a Research Fellow in the Foreign Policy and Defence Program at the United States Studies Centre where he works on national security and technology issues, US defence and foreign policy and Indo-Pacific security.