A nation that has atom bombs could always simply use a bog-standard 
conventional submarine which could surface one dark night off the eastern or 
western seaboard of the USA, deposit a device on the coast and set it to 
explode an hour later. That would cause devastating damage - physical and 
psychological.
 

 The only deterrent is the knowledge that the US could launch a massive 
response aimed at Chinese cities that would put China back to the Dark Ages.
 

 Unless the Chinese leaders are completely insane they would never risk 
throwing away the dominant economic position they've painstakingly established 
over recent years. The scary thing is that nationalism can be a species of 
insanity. And the one-child rule - combined with female infanticide - has given 
China a large surplus of testosterone-driven single males just itching for a 
fight to prove their manhood.
 

 

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