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A Sum Greater Than Its Parts: Integrated Deterrence and Strategic Competition

By Chris Bassler , Marin Halper , Brent Katz , Will Kirkman

To confront the complex challenges posed by China to reshape the global order, integrated deterrence offers a comprehensive and adaptable strategy for managing strategic competition, maintaining peace, and, if necessary, prevailing in conflict.

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“We had been living in a world where we believed that the [People’s Republic of China] was going to integrate into the world international rules-based order in a way that was responsible—that’s not the world we live in.” Admiral John C. Aquilino, Commander, U.S. Indo-Pacific Command

The 2022 National Security Strategy (NSS) and National Defense Strategy (NDS) emphasize the need for a fresh approach to address the challenges posed by China and other major powers. Policymakers are trying to navigate this new geostrategic environment while China, the U.S., and many other nations simultaneously pursue significant military modernization efforts. Washington must build and execute a coherent strategy, which can adapt to this evolving landscape.

MITRE and the Aspen Institute collaborated on a paper to illustrate how and why integrated deterrence—a concept that combines diplomacy, information, military, and economic levers of power—offers a comprehensive approach to address the challenges posed by China. This strategic approach, rooted in nuclear deterrence theory but expanded to encompass whole-of-government efforts, aims to manage strategic competition, build de-escalatory off-ramps, offer opportunities for cooperation, and prepare for all possibilities.

By leveraging all elements of national power across the whole-of-government and the private sector, the U.S. and its allies can develop a more effective and coordinated strategy to navigate the complex relationship with China and achieve maximum effect in deterring acts of aggression.

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