Ripeness Theory in the Digital Age: When to Log Off from Cyber Conflict

In: International Negotiation
Alexandria Polk School of Advanced International Studies, The Johns Hopkins University 1740 Massachusetts Avenue, NW, Washington, DC 20036 USA

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When are cyber conflicts ripe for negotiation? Analysis of cyber conflict presents a challenge to the prevailing negotiation concept, Zartman’s ripeness theory. Ripeness theory posits that the timing of a negotiation stems from the conflicting parties’ perception of a “mutually hurting stalemate” (MHS) and “a way out” of conflict through dialogue. While this theory has shown merit for negotiations related to conventional warfare or economic disputes, there are gaps in its applicability for resolving cyber conflict. Specifically, the concept of a “hurting stalemate” has little to no presence in cyber disputes, rendering MHS incompatible with pure cyber negotiations. As such, redefining mutually hurting stalemate for cyber conflict is paramount to address this discrepancy. Examining the 2015 bilateral US-China Cybersecurity Agreement provides a context for applying our hypothesis and demonstrates how accepted negotiation theory may be applied to cyber conflict.

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