High end systems are very effective against non-peer nuclear nations and soon may supplant nuclear weapons in an age of new weapons technologies in space and increasingly effective defenses against nuclear attack.Yet nations still pursue high end and increasingly complex conventional systems.
If one side loses conventionally, whether they would resort to the use of nuclear weapons is not guaranteed. It depends on what the conflict is about and the specific interests in question.
Yes, agreed it does depend on scenario. The context you were writing under was the US destroying Chinese industrial sites. If we're at the point where the Americans are freely wiping out Chinese industry, then it's pretty straightforward to assume that: PLAAF is done, PLAN is done, Chinese air defense networks are gone, PLARF and Chinese nuclear deterrent is completely exposed/gone, Xi Jinping and the PSC about to be arrested/eliminated, CPC about to be regime-changed, SCS, Taiwan, Xinjiang, Hong Kong gone gone gone, etc. etc.
That's the read? Or is it as Totoro describes:
The Americans wipe PLAAF, PLAN, PLARF, wipe Chinese air defense, severely weakening Chinese nuclear deterrent and leaving China defenseless, smash Chinese industry, setting China back "a much, much shorter timespan" in an era of technological acceleration and centralization... then pull back from China at the brink, threatening nuclear annihilation if China retaliates.I don't see that as the only or even the most likely course of events. If one side sees it's going to lose conventionally, it has two options:
A) escalating to nuclear - which has a high likelihood of escalating so much that everyone loses hard. Which involves the active side losing 50% of its population and 90% of its economy/industry/tech base.
or B) saying "ok, you win" and backing down. If it does that, it will lose a few percent of its population and some more percent of its economy/industry/tech base.
Under option A - the active country may require centuries to get to the level where it was before the war. Also centuries to get to the same level relative to the other belligerent country.
Under option B - the active country may require just decades to get to the level where it was before the war. With also a chance to once again match the other belligerent country; perhaps not within those same decades but certainly within a much, much shorter timespan than the aforementioned "centuries".
Fair. But why would the Chinese agree to that, when they can skip all that nasty negative stuff by escalating quick, and to use a poker term, raise you all in with WMDs and annihilation for all? That seems to be quite a bit more level a playing field for the Chinese to want to play on.
I don't mean to frivolously discuss these scenarios. Many American think-tankers will calmly describe attacking mainland targets in various contingencies, and I remember reading a Congressional testimony earlier this year about the need to take out southern Chinese air defense in any Taiwan conflict. Hopefully there's no miscalculation here...