Journal of Chinese Political Science

, Volume 24, Issue 2, pp 225–247 | Cite as

The Likelihood of Cyberwar between the United States and China: A Neorealism and Power Transition Theory Perspective

  • Yavuz AkdagEmail author


The studies addressing cyberwar and depicting electronic doomsday scenarios, such as cyber version of 9/11, are immensely policy-driven. They lack a theoretical rigor in their explanations, causing a theory-policy gap in the study of cyberwar. This gap is more acute in the discussion on cyberwar scenarios between China and the United States (U.S). Additionally, while some used neorealist frameworks to understand the nature of U.S-China relations in cyberspace, they did so mostly with no systematic analysis of the likelihood of cyberwar between the two. I intend to bridge this theory-policy gap by examining the prospect of cyberwar between the U.S. and China using Neorealism and Power Transition Theory (PTT). I argue that PTT offers a more useful framework. Applying PTT indicates that while cyberwar currently seems unlikely, China will become cyberwar-prone to switch the status quo in cyberspace to its favor, especially if it achieves offensive cyberwar capability parity with the U.S. while simultaneously remaining dissatisfied with the cyber order. I utilized secondary empirical sources in the relevant literature in conducting this study.


Neorealism Power transition theory Cyberwar Power parity Satisfaction 



The author would like to thank to Dr. Steven Roach, Dr. Bernd Reiter, Dr. Jongseok Woo, Dr. Nezir Akyesilmen, and Ph.D. candidate Nathan Barrick for their valuable contribution to this paper. Table 1: “Overall Cyber War Strength” from CYBER WAR by RICHARD A. CLARKE and ROBERT K. KNAKE. Copyright (c) 2010 by Richard A. Clarke and Robert K. Knake. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers.


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© Journal of Chinese Political Science/Association of Chinese Political Studies 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of South FloridaTampaUSA

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