While both the US and China have all the technology in place for a serious cyber war, both sides could wipe each other out, so neither would do it.
That is the view of a panel of security and policy experts which thinks that the old idea of nuclear deterrent applies to the concept of cyber warfare.
The panel told attendees at the RSA Security Conference in San Francisco that while China is seen as a cyber aggressor, the US still holds many of the cards.
This means that old fashioned diplomatic horse trading will also be a critical tool for avoiding conflict and stemming the kinds of cyber economic and military espionage.
Apparently the US can build up its allies by sharing its native cybersecurity expertise and the Chinese can do the same thing. The next thing is that you have two cyber blocs which are equal in power with neither wanting to take action in case the other does.
Dmitri Alperovitch of the firm CrowdStrike said that there was a need for capacity building in these countries where the security expertise is thin on the ground. If the US was not there then Huawei and the Chinese will be. He said that deterrence will play an imporant role in avoiding conflict, as it did in the cold war with Russia.
According to Threatpost, the Chinese military appreciates that both it and the U.S. have cyber offensive capabilities and defensive vulnerabilities. So everything is back to mutually assured destruction.
Alperovitch said that the military shouldn't look any differently at hostile cyber actions than it would at physical attacks or efforts to undermine US sovereignty.
Martin Libicki, a Senior Scientist at RAND said that the U.S. posture has always been that of if you annoy us, we'll retaliate.
China and the People's Liberation Army were still unsure about the proper role of cyber offensive capabilities in their own plans, despite the country's image as a finely oiled cyber warfare machine, the panel thought.