Taiwan and the Dangerous Illogic of Deterrence by Denial

Addressing vulnerability and promoting security
Posted May 13, 2022 | Foreign Policy at Brookings, Melanie Sisson

It is often argued that deterrence requires convincing China that it would lose in a military contest, a strategy known as deterrence by denial. An alternative strategy, Melanie Sisson notes in her brief for Foreign Policy at Brookings is deterrence by punishment - convincing China that even if it could win against Taiwan, the costs of trying would outweigh any possible gains. She suggests that the costs and risks of deterrence by denial are not justified by U.S. interests. A strategy of deterrence by punishment is, however, pragmatic. Deterrence uses available means - military power, economic leverage, diplomatic finesse, and values-based affinity and cultural appeal - to convince another actor to refrain from acting. The U.S. has real leverage, and an increasingly resolute set of partners, with which to convince China that aggression will be enormously costly.



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