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December 01, 2021
Top CNAS Reports of 2021
In 2021, CNAS published innovative new research and policy ideas on the country's enduring—and emerging—national security challenges. The Center's work had tangible impact: it was quoted in hundreds of news articles and highlighted in op-eds, it informed legislation and congressional testimony, and it was discussed at events around the globe.
Get ready for 2022 and the new challenges ahead by looking back at CNAS' most popular reports of the year, covering everything from the deepening China-Russia partnership, to U.S. sanction policy to global technology competition.
1. Myths and Realities of China’s Military-Civil Fusion Strategy
Beijing’s drive to create stronger linkages between its civilian economy and defense industrial base has started to draw considerable attention in Washington. Known as “military-civil fusion” (MCF), these efforts have formed a key part of Beijing’s intensifying economic and technological competition with the United States. While President Biden’s administration will have an opportunity to reset the tone of the U.S.-China relationship, China’s model of MCF remains a major concern for U.S. policymakers. This report by Elsa B. Kania and Lorand Laskai dispels several prominent myths about China’s MCF efforts, and seeks to improve policymakers’ understanding of the challenges MCF presents while enhancing the U.S. government’s ability to grapple with these issues.
2. The Poison Frog Strategy
How could the United States respond if China seized one of Taiwan’s outlying islands in the South China Sea? A recent report authors Christopher Dougherty, Jennie Matuschak, and Ripley Hunter from CNAS’ Gaming Lab details the outcomes of the virtual strategy game, which saw the U.S. team relying on military force in ways that were risky and would be difficult to sustain. At the same time, other non-military options, such as economic sanctions or information campaigns, took too long to produce effects and appeared too weak to compel China to abandon its gains.
3. Taking the Helm
A rising China poses a fundamental challenge to the economic vitality and national security of the United States and its allies and the currency of liberal democratic values around the world. Technology—a key enabler for economic, political, and military power—is front and center in this competition. Authors Martijn Rasser and Megan Lamberth offer a series of policy recommendations to help guide the U.S. government’s formation and execution of a national technology strategy. Further, their report provides the intellectual framing for what a national technology strategy is and why the United States needs one.
4. China’s Digital Currency
China has made greater progress toward developing a national digital currency than any other major advanced economy. Experts Yaya J. Fanusie and Emily Jin argue that Beijing’s efforts to develop a central bank digital currency will play a key role in driving the Chinese Communist Party's (CCP) digital authoritarianism. Their report examines how the People’s Bank of China’s digital currency project could strengthen the CCP’s domestic control over citizens, undermine global standards around financial data privacy, and erode longstanding international norms.
5. Navigating the Deepening Russia-China Partnership
Increased cooperation between Russia and China threatens to erode U.S. military advantages, strain an already stressed U.S. defense budget, and undermine America’s ability to uphold its commitment to maintaining a free and open Indo-Pacific. Moscow and Beijing’s growing alignment also poses serious risks for liberal democracies as Russia and China popularize authoritarian governance, water down human rights norms, and export their illiberal models of technology use. This report by By Andrea Kendall-Taylor and David Shullman provide an in-depth examination of the deepening ties between Russia and China, the United States’ two most consequential adversaries.
6. More than Half the Battle
Gaining an advantage in managing information and exercising command is a precondition of victory in warfare. This necessity has become even more acute as military organizations have integrated information technology into their forces and operations. Recognizing this, China and Russia have placed information at the center of their strategies for competing with or combating the United States. Author Chris Dougherty examines how the Department of Defense (DoD) can embrace, rather than fight against, the changes in the character of warfare and learn to thrive within its chaos in ways that China and Russia may be unable to match.
7. Risky Business: Future Strategy and Force Options for the Defense Department
Despite the overarching strategic priorities laid out by the Biden administration and initial indicators provided by the Department of Defense, it is unclear how the next National Defense Strategy will prioritize threats and assign the primary role of the U.S. military. In this report, authors Stacie Pettyjohn, Becca Wasser and Jennie Matuschak examine three possible strategy and force structure options for the Biden administration under a flat budget. Using tabletop exercises and budgetary analysis, they assess whether these options can sufficiently meet the challenges of daily competition and future great-power conflict, and ensure America’s long-term military technological edge.
8. Sanctions by the Numbers: U.S. Secondary Sanctions
Over the past decade, secondary sanctions have emerged as a critical—and sometimes controversial—tool to increase the effectiveness and reach of U.S. primary sanctions programs. While U.S. individuals and entities must adhere to primary sanctions as a matter of U.S. law or face potential criminal/civil penalties, secondary sanctions present non-U.S. targets with a choice: do business with the United States or with the sanctioned target, but not both. Read more about secondary sanctions in this edition of Sanctions by the Numbers from authors Jason Bartlett and Megan Ophel.
9. From Plan to Action
Strategies can be eloquent and inspiring. How successful they are rests in addressing gritty details outside of the spotlight. An effective and realistic national technology strategy requires vision, process, an executable framework, and a commitment to addressing bureaucratic, legal, and regulatory hurdles to implementation. Alongside a comprehensive national technology strategy, the United States needs a blueprint for how to operationalize such a strategy. In a CNAS report, authors John Costello, Martijn Rasser, and Megan Lamberth offer concrete and pragmatic measures that U.S. policymakers should take to operationalize a national technology strategy.
10. Networked: Techno-Democratic Statecraft for Australia and the Quad
A strategic competition is underway—and technology stands at its core. Technology-leading countries will drive the digital economy, gain political power and military strength, and shape global norms for technology use. In response, Australia’s leaders are building novel international collaborations, such as the Quad Tech Network, recognizing that alliances and partnerships among the world’s democracies represent a key strategic advantage. In this report, author Martijn Rasser lays out a blueprint for techno-democratic statecraft in the Quad.
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