Rituals of Non-Western Deterrence:
USA-China (post-Cold War)

This case study will untangle the ritualisations of deterrence through the analysis of the respective Chinese categories, concepts and practices in interactive performances with the United States of America in the post-Cold War era. The focus will be on the articulations and practices of Chinese weishe (威慑) – a concept referring to ‘deterrence’ in the Chinese use of the term, encompassing both dissuasion and compellence. The interaction ritual chains of the American strategy of ‘hegemonic deterrence’ and the Chinese approach of ‘active defence’ will be explored with a combination of discourse analysis, practice-tracing and auxiliary expert interviews.

As with other case studies, the analytical process entails:

  1. tracing deterrence interaction ritual chains, tracking the supposed material and psychological effects of deterrent moves and signals in line with their reported responses from the targeted actors;
  2. thick description of deterrence interaction ritual chains in military and political-diplomatic contexts;
  3. historicising the strategic narratives, concepts and categories of deterrence;
  4. dissecting the cultural meanings ascribed to particular deterrence practices;
  5. delineating the political rationalities underpinning deterrence strategies and realities.

Questions addressed:

  • How is the capacity of particular political, military and legislative practices to produce deterrent effects politically determined in the US-China interactions?
  • How are mutual assessments of credibility performance made in the practices of deterrence in US-China interactions? How are the respective understandings on the believability of threat and commitment subsequently produced?
  • How are forms of political identity and community generated and consolidated through US-China mutual deterrence practices? 
  • How are Chinese and American mutual deterrence efforts performed and ritualised? 
  • What are the historical, cultural and political rationalities underpinning contemporary strategic narratives, concepts, categories, strategies and practices of mutual deterrence?