Macquarie University
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Cyber deterrence and US-Sino cyber relations: regarding US-Sino cyber relations, can deterrence function in cyberspace?

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posted on 2022-03-29, 00:15 authored by Georgia Letitia Pollock Leach
To study the applicability of deterrence theory to the case study of US-Sino cyber relations. This thesis will attempt to determine the utility of cyber deterrence as a management tool as well as its effectiveness in cyberspace. As the relationship between the US and China is arguably one of the most important to the international community its stability is important. Yet in recent years US-Sino relations has been detrimentally affected by a seriec of cyber incidents; some notably stemming from the 2013 Mandiant Report. The international community is becoming progressively more reliant on the cyber domain to conduct affairs ranging from trade and economics to critical infrastructure. However, the increase in interconnectedness has subsequently led to an escalation in vulnerability and susceptibility to exploits for malicious purposes. As the US and China have greater capabilities to undertake operations within the domain, cyber contests are of increasing concern. Deterrence theory is explored as a method to dissuade costly attacks and as a management tool for the political relationship. However, the literature on cyber deterrence is young; it needs further analysis and definitional clarity. This thesis will explore the scale and method used for various cyber incidents in an attempt to examine a more holistic picture of US-Sino relations within the domain. The infancy of cyberspace has resulted in and environment where the boundaries of acceptable behaviour are still being explored. There is a significant disconnect between the perceptions of accepted norms of the US and China within the domain. The possibility of cyber war as well as the use of the cyber domain to conduct large-scale damaging attacks should be considered. The question remains can deterrence apply to the cyber domain and if so to what extent? Moreover, is there a difference in applicability of deterrence when considering the severity of a cyber-incident? This paper seeks to determine the utility of deterrence to the US-Sino political relationship and its applicability to the cyber domain.


Table of Contents

Chapter 1. Introduction -- Chapter 2. Brief overview -- Chapter 3. Literature review -- Chapter 4. Case study US-Sino Relations -- Chapter 5. A functioning cyber deterrence -- Chapter 6. Conclusion -- References.


Bibliography: pages 72-78 Theoretical thesis.

Awarding Institution

Macquarie University

Degree Type

Thesis MRes


MRes, Macquarie University, Faculty of Arts, Department of Security Studies and Criminology

Department, Centre or School

Department of Security Studies and Criminology

Year of Award


Principal Supervisor

Ben Schreer


Copyright Georgia Letitia Pollock Leach 2017. Copyright disclaimer:




United States China


1 online resource (78 pages) colour illustrations

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